Tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world. Because of this, its players are world-renowned for their athleticism, skill and personal branding. Tennis names, like Serena Williams and Roger Federer, have traveled the globe. And with that fame comes countless endorsements, awards, and fans.
Because of tennis’s global audience, its players come from around the world. That means commentators or viewers come across unfamiliar tennis names.
Tennis facts and history
The game is also deeply strange, sporting many unusual conventions. An example is the use of “love” in scoring: a scoreboard reading 30-0 would actually read “thirty-love.” This perhaps originates from the French word for egg, “ouef,” which is a colloquial stand-in for zero. The game was also once played with hands instead of racquets.
A tennis court was also the venue for a pivotal moment in the French Revolution, where the then-Third Estate resolved to fight for a national constitution. A tennis court was also the site of a historic three-day match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut. Recently, a tennis court became the site of political discussion after Naomi Osaka defeated Serena Williams in the 2018 US Open.
So what are some of the more difficult names in tennis? We’ve prepared a list of major figures in the sport (aside from the already mentioned Williams and Federer) whose names might be tricky to pronounce. Get a better understanding of the sport, or prepare yourself to comment on the 2019 US Open. Plus, you’ll learn more about history with our Tennis Names Pronunciation Guide.
Women’s Tennis Names
Naomi Osaka is a newcomer to the world tennis stage, but she’s already secured two grand slams. She became the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam singles tournament after a thrilling closer to the 2018 US Open.
Channeling the legendary Australian player Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Barty took home a singles title at the 2019 French Open. Interestingly, during her 2014-16 hiatus, Barty played in professional cricket in Australia. She did this despite having no prior formal training in the sport.
At just 19 years old, Canadian Bianca Andreescu defeated Serena Williams at the 2019 US Open and made history. With this, she is the first Canadian – and the first player born after the 2000s – to win a Grand Slam singles title. Her name comes from her parents’ Romanian heritage: they moved to Canada in the 90s.
Widely regarded as one of the best to play on the court, Navratilova held down the number 1 spot for 332 weeks in total (over six years). This feat includes a stunning six consecutive Wimbledon titles (nine in total). The key to pronouncing her name right is starting off with “nuh” rather than “nah.”
A legend in her own right, Maria Sharapova’s name often comes up alongside other contemporary greats. Her five grand slam titles (including a career grand slam), rank her amongst the greats on the court.
Men’s Tennis Names
Rafael Nadal is one of the most famous players in modern tennis. As the long-time rival of Roger Federer, he holds 18 Grand Slams and two Olympic golds. With this in mind, he is often ranked in the top 3 men’s players. Pronounce the “a” in his first name more like “aye.”
With Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic closes out the men’s “Big Four:” the four players who controlled the sport from 2004 to 2016. He is one of the most decorated players in tennis, with 16 Grand Slams. As a result, he has held the number 1 spot for 260 weeks total. His last name, Djokovic, is pronounced with a silent “D.”
A newcomer with high expectations, Alexander Zverev comes from a family of tennis players. Though he has no grand slams under his belt, he is widely regarded to be an up-and-coming success. Both Nadal and Djokovic have spoken highly of his skills and abilities on the court. His last name is pronounced “sfeh-ref.”
Working with “one of the best backhands ever,” Wawrinka has proven control over clay courts. His career highlights include three grand slam titles, where he defeated the top-ranked player each match. Interestingly, Wawrinka is pronounced “vav-reen-kah.”
Bjorn Borg is a legendary tennis player who has set numerous records. Because of his 11 grand slam singles titles, the Swedish-born Bjorg was hugely influential in increasing the popularity of tennis in the 1970s. The “j” in his first name reads more like a “y.”