Racquet sports are some of the most widely played sports in the world. With tennis, badminton, and table tennis being among the top 10 most played sports in the world, there is a lot to know about these sports and what makes them particularly fascinating.
Generally speaking, racquet sports are simple. All you need is a racquet or a paddle and, in most cases, a ball and a court. However, the history of how these sports came to be, and their evolution is fascinating.
These are the 20 plus facts about racquet (paddle) sports.
1. Badminton is recognized as the world fastest sport.
Yes, that’s right. Shuttlecocks can travel at insane speeds. They are considered to be the fastest moving object among all sports. Although they are very light in weight, they are constructed with a cork weight bearing at the bottom of the shuttlecock. This unique construction has allowed the birdie to reach speeds higher than 300 mph (482 km/h) – that is faster than any other object in sports.
2. Tennis is the fourth most popular sport in the world.
Being one of the oldest and most popular racquet sports, tennis has garnered the attention of over a billion fans and players around the world. According to World Atlas, tennis is the fourth most popular sport behind soccer, cricket, and field hockey.
3. Table Tennis came in sixth place
4. Badminton is the second most played sport across the world.
This sport, which is not that popular in America, is the second most played sport around the world, just after football (soccer). Badminton is very popular in Asia, especially in China. In fact, over a fifth of Chinese citizens reported enjoying hitting the shuttlecock back and forth. Also, badminton is well known in several European countries, like Sweden, Denmark, and the UK.
5. Badminton wasn’t always called badminton.
Badminton, as a sport, had several re-brandings throughout its history.
Many years ago, different forms of badminton were known as Shuttlecock, Hanetsuki, or Battledore, among others. It was only in 1873 that the sport gained its current name at the Duke of Beaufort’s estate also called badminton.
6. Tennis was the first racquet sport to enter the Olympics.
On the very first Summer Olympics in 1896 in Athens, Greece, tennis as a sport was featured. This was the very first racquet sport to be played in the Olympics. In the first Olympics, women’s doubles and men’s singles were the only variations in which players competed. Since then, the sport has come a long way to include mixed doubles, as well as both men and women singles and doubles.
7. Tennis contended Olympics presence.
Following its establishment as a recognized Olympic sport, tennis was scraped and later reinstated. After the Paris Olympics in 1924, the game took a backseat from a medaled competition to a demonstration sport in the Olympics.
This was a result of disputes between the International Lawn Tennis Federation and the International Olympic Committee. However, later, these two committees sorted their misunderstandings and tennis was reinstated as a full medal sport in the Olympics in 1988, which were held in Seoul, South Korea.
8. The first yellow balls on the tennis court.
Although now we are used to seeing yellow tennis balls in professional tennis matches, that wasn’t always the case. The optic yellow tennis balls were first introduced to professional tennis in 1972. The ITF (International Tennis Federation) concluded that the yellow balls would be most appropriate for visibility on television; and this worked out well for the 1986 Wimbledon tournament, which was the first to be televised.
9. Natural guts are used to make racquet strings.
Since the introduction of natural gut, back in the 19th century, to today, many Pro tennis players still preferred to use natural gut strings for their racquets. Natural guts strings are also known as “catguts.” However, if you’re a cat lover, don’t panic! It is not actual cat intestines, but intestines from a variety of animals such as pigs, goats, cows, and sheep.
10. Tennis used to be played on an hourglass-shaped court.
Tennis has a long, fascinating history, but the most interesting development of its lifetime was probably the hourglass court. In 1874, Major Water Wingfield patented the game he called Sphairistike (playing at ball in Greek). He drew inspiration from the more complex standard tennis as the Brits referred to it, and made a few changes most of which stuck to date.
However, one of his innovations, the hourglass-shaped court did not stand the test of time. These courts were smaller, and the borderlines came in to meet the net posts at the mid-line. In 1877, it phased out, and rectangular courts prevailed.
11. The First Wimbledon tennis competition was in 1877.
In 1877, the first Wimbledon tournament was held at the All England Club Croquet. The competition attracted 22 men, who wore heeled shoes and hats, as well as 200 spectators.
12. Table tennis was used for diplomacy during the Cold War.
The cold war was a tense period in global politics, and, what not too many people known, is that table tennis was used as a way to appease tensions. On April of 1971, the Chinese government sent out an invitation to the American table tennis team to join in a fun tournament in Beijing. This was the very first communication from the People’s Republic of China in 6 years, and it signaled the easing of tensions and a more dynamic relationship between the two countries.
13. Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in North America.
Pickleball, which is an amalgamate of tennis, table tennis, and badminton, it’s among the fastest growing sports in North America in the last decade. It’s especially popular amongst baby boomers. According to the USA Pickleball Association, the game has seen, in about the last five years, a 650% increase in participation.
14. The Titanic had a squash a court.
On the G-deck of the largest ship of its time was a squash court. The court was fitted by a full-length squash area and an instructor, Mr. Frederick Wright. This amenity was available for first class passengers only.
15. Forbes named squash as the healthiest sport ever.
In an hour of a squash game, you can burn anywhere between 600 and 1000 calories. In addition to keeping your calories in check, it’s excellent in challenging cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength, and flexibility, all while sustaining a, relatively, low injury risk.
16. Rackeltlon is the ultimate test for racquet sports players.
Racketlon is a racquet sport that takes after other competitions that incorporate different sports into one, such as the triathlon or decathlon. Racketlon tests a racquet player’s ability to excel at different racquet sports.
In Racketlon, players face opponents of similar mastery in four different sports – table tennis, badminton, squash, and tennis. Players and fans are rallying for this sport to become part of the Olympics.
Racketlon is played on about 30 countries.
Although you might have never heard of this sport, you’ll be surprised to know that Racketlon is played on about 30 countries around the world. If you consider yourself a racquet sports fan and don’t know about this sport, you should up your game by finding more about Racketlon. You can start by checking the following article, ” What is Racketlon? The Racket Sports Quadrathlon“
18. How many racquet sports are there?
Many and new ones are being created every year. Most are variations of existing racquet sports, but some are putting on a whole new spin. If you are really interested in knowing how many racquet sports are there, you may want to read the book “Racket Wars: Guide Book to All the World’s Racket Sports” by Leon Jackson Jr.
19. There is a racquet sport that can be played at the beach.
It’s called beach tennis, and is similar to volleyball but played with paddles and a low-pressure tennis ball. Recognized by the International Tennis Federation, beach tennis draws inspiration from lawn tennis. It has the same scoring system as tennis, and it’s mostly played as doubles. The sport is extremely popular in countries like Brazil and Italy; the latest being considered the capital of beach tennis.
20. Regular tennis courts are being converted into beach tennis courts.
Yes, you read that right. In Brazil, where the sport is quite popular, tennis clubs are converting some of their tennis courts into beach tennis courts to meet demand. Yes, with sand!
21. Table Tennis was included on the 1988 Summer Olympics.
Table tennis joined the Olympic sports roster in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. This was the same year tennis had regained its Olympic sport status. Speaking of table tennis in the Olympics, the previous 6 Olympic Table Tennis gold medalists are from Asian countries which are the most dominant in the sport.
22. The world’s first nuclear reactor was built on a squash court.
Yes! The world’s first nuclear reactor was assembled on a squash court, right next to the football field at the University of Chicago. This was in 1942, and construction began as part of a larger experiment for the Manhattan Project. This construction was led by the well-known physicist Enrico Fermi.
With this knowledge under your belt, you can confidently take part in racquet sports trivia or challenge your friends to a friendly quiz. If you’re a fan, you can impress friends you meet with your impeccable knowledge about these sports. If you are a player, more power to you! With this information, you can learn something new and appreciate your racquet sport a bit more.