Tennis fans the world over become transfixed by a yellow ball speeding through the sun-warmed air every year during the Grand Slam tournaments. Whether one competes, enjoys a friendly match now and then, or simply likes the excitement of the game, watching the world’s top players deftly navigate a fast-paced match is always a thrill. For those who can’t travel to a Grand Slam city like Paris, London, New York, or Melbourne in person, Tennis Channel is the go-to source for comprehensive tournament coverage and expert commentary. In addition, subscribers to Tennis Channel Plus can enjoy exclusive coverage.
As every championship tennis player has their own otherworldly combination of grace, power, and personality that carries them to the highest reaches of what is possible in the world of tennis, each of the four tournaments that make up the Grand Slam embodies the sport after its own particular and unforgettable fashion. Here are the four major tournaments in international tennis and some spectacular estates where anyone from a novice to a ferocious back-hander can improve their game—or host a viewing party to remember.
Wimbledon, the oldest and perhaps most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, is the place where a crowd featuring tennis fans, royals, and boys in blazers feasting on strawberries and cream can watch the likes of Serena Williams send a tennis ball skidding through the grass. The Championships, as the matches played in the London suburb of Wimbledon each summer are traditionally known, have taken place at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club since 1877. Wimbledon’s special etiquette gives it a particularly British, traditional flavor that enhances the pure elegance of a tennis match’s rhythmic back and forth. There is no advertising visible around the courts, and a strict dress code is enforced. Just as the French Open is the only major tennis tournament played on clay, Wimbledon is the only one played on grass. The surface of the grass can be slippery, and tennis balls can skid unexpectedly, requiring speed, vigilance, and precision—a fact that Williams used to her advantage during her decisive win over Garbiñe Muguruza in 2015.
The US Open, which will take place for the first time this year under its new retractable roof, is the heart and soul of American tennis, embodying the spirit of its stadium’s indomitable namesake, Arthur Ashe. This tournament, scheduled to coincide with Labor Day weekend, is where the formality of the sport is streaked through with a playful American ferocity and individuality. The distinct character of the US Open shines through all the more because of its location in the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in vibrant Flushing, New York. Officially the United States Open Tennis Championships, this event is the final Grand Slam tournament of the year and is played on a hard court, the most consistent surface and the best platform for crowd-dazzling moves. This year, 2015 men’s champion Novak Djokovic will return to the court to set loose and test once again the skills that have distinguished him as one of the best tennis players of all time.
The Australian Open is played on bright blue hard courts. As befits a land defined as a new frontier, it is the tournament where as-yet lesser-known players come to shine—or shake down the order of things. Australia’s well-known sense of play and warm hospitality are on full display each January in Melbourne at the Australian Open, which dates back to 1905. Since 1988, its hard surface has given its matches an energy similar to those of the US Open, but with the ball moving at lower heights and slower speeds. This year, Germany’s Angelique Kerber stunned tennis fans worldwide by decisively beating Serena Williams. She then surprised everyone by lying flat on the ground and moving her arms and legs as though she were making a snow angel, eliciting smiles from many—including Williams.
The French Open
At the French Open in Paris, the je ne sais quoi that makes competitors tick is on full display in their serves as well and in their physical appearances. How a player moves and what they wear get special attention at this tournament both because it is played in the 8th arrondissement of the most stylish city in the world, and because the clay courts make for a slower, more studied game. The French Open is played on a court made of pulverized bricks that is as dense and brown as wine-country soil. For a championship tennis player, however, the clay surface can be as smooth as ice. Of the four Grand Slam tournaments, the French Open is widely considered the toughest, primarily because tennis balls bounce more slowly and higher on clay. This combination often undercuts the abilities of athletes known in tennis as “power players.” As a result, the list of tennis champions who have failed to win a French Open is astonishingly impressive and includes the likes of Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, and John Newcombe. Current title holder Novak Djokovic won his first French Open after just four attempts, and this year he holds all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously. He is the first athlete to do so since Australian Rod Laver in 1969. The tournament has also been known, however, to play to the strengths of other competitors such as nine-time French Open winner Rafael Nadal and six-time champion Steffi Graf. This is the court where defending French Open women’s champion Serena Williams lost her top spot this year to Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain. At just 22 years of age, Muguruza was thrilled to win her first Grand Slam title against a player she had idolized as a child.