Lawn Tennis

Colonialists on the tennis courts Government House in Lagos., ca.1910
Colonialists on the tennis courts Government House in Lagos., ca.1910

Lawn Tennis is a racket sport played individually or in teams on a hard surface of concrete, asphalt, or on clay or grass. A ball is being served over the net to a reciever on the other side of the net, and remains in play until a point is decided. To remain in play, the ball does not touch the net at first service, or becomes void and reserved. Players loose points when they hit shots out of bound. A serve that goes beyond the line halfway between the net and the baseline, called the service line is out of bound, and so is the shot that goes beyond the sidelines, which is wider for doubles play and less for singles play. These lines, though indicated on the court, is ignored depending on if the type of play that is ongoing. Asides the serve, any shots that goes beyond the lines at the ends of the court, called the baseline, is considered out.

The score, where there is no point, is “love”, “fifteen” at the first point, “thirty” at the second, “forty” and “game” at the third, and the fourth, respectively. When three points have been won by two competing players or team, it is “deuce” and a further point after this tie is an “advantage” which now becomes a win for the game only when there is no further tie, that is, where there are two consecutive wins or success in the deciding point. The winner of most games wins the set.


Fans at the Serena sisters Lawn Tennis game in Lagos
Fans at the Serena sisters game in Lagos © Getty Images

The Lawn Tennis game, originating from the 14th Century France was developed in Britain of the 1870s. It gained prominence in Nigeria from the early 20th Century, being the main source of relaxation for British colonial officials. Unlike most other sports, which began in public secondary schools, Lawn Tennis was introduced through government houses and elitist recreation clubs such as the Ikoyi and Yoruba Tennis Clubs formed in 1926 to arrest the situation where enthusiasts were denied the oppourtunity to participate in colonial courts. The popularity gained by the sport reached a new high in the’70s with the public attention paid to the rivalry between Lawrence Awopegba and the more tenacious Thompson Onibokun. Nigerian player, Nduka Odizor, called the ‘Duke’, emerged as one of the elite 16 players in the Wimbledon Championship of 1983.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer