I’ve started playing tennis in the USA recently. Back in the UK, I played a lot of badminton. Badminton is a great game for northern Europe as it is an indoor game, meaning that you avoid the cold and rain in the Winter months, unlike with rugby and football where you get very muddy and freeze your balls off, at least in my experience. It took me a while to get my badminton game back together after many years of not playing seriously, but I got better and for a time I was captain of the Headingley C Team, which sounds almost grand, but in practice means doing an awful lot of phone texting to remind team members where the next match is and what time they should show up. Now that I am over here, however, I have packed in badminton and I am playing tennis in Florida. With Wimbledon underway back in the UK, I thought it might be fun to compare British and American differences when it comes to tennis.
Playing tennis in Florida is obviously a much hotter experience than anything you get in the UK. I’ve bought a baseball cap to protect my eyes and head from the sun and have considered getting sweatbands. Basically, you have to play tennis either in the evening or the morning here, unless you want to sweat to death. The chances of play getting rained off are lower, however.
There is more high fiving and fist bumping in American culture and less hand shaking. In England things are more formal and reserved in this respect and the only physical contact is usually a bit of hand shaking and maybe a gentle pat on the back. I don’t really mind the American way, as I can get fed up with the stiffness and formality of British culture sometimes, but I am still adapting and trying to work out what is appropriate here!
Badminton takes a heavy toll on the knees, as you are moving fast and constantly changing direction. Tennis means less stress on the knees and legs generally, but more strain on the elbow and shoulder of your racket arm.
I still find some of the pronunciations amusing. “Deuce” virtually rhymes with “juice” in England but the vowell sound is more like “moose” in the US. I am going to stick to my English pronunciations, however, having resolved before I began living in the USA to follow the maxim of my hero, Quentin Crisp and to: “On no account learn the language, the more English you sound, the more likely you are to be believed.” This is somewhat undermined, however, by many Americans mistaking me for an Australian! (Some people don’t get the Northern English accent, apparently!)
(Another American expression that has caused me confusion is "I'm good". In the UK "I'm good" usually means "I'm ready" or "I'm up for it", whereas in the US, it more often means the opposite: "I'm done" or "I've had enough".)
I would like to play some matches for the local club, but I need to get a lot better and I am still trying to remember how to play some of the shots. My service still needs lots of work, for instance. I am getting there, however.
As well as playing with a local club once a week, I also play with my wife once or twice a week. We go to a local court, which hasn’t been properly maintained, but is within walking distance. It is cracked and overgrown, but it has a net and you can just about work out the markings, so it is okay for a knockabout. (Sometimes we follow up with a dip in the pool, which is rather nice!)
As far as the professional game goes, there are numerous British and American differences that I could name, but the main one, as Rob at The Inconsequential Opinion pointed out, is that unlike with the Americans, the Brits never win at Wimbledon! Well at least, we haven’t had a winner since Virginia Wade back in 1977, an event that I only vaguely remember from my childhood!