What can you learn from Wimbledon?

By Bruce Munro

Andy Murray reaching for a forehand at Wimbledon.

The Wimbledon fortnight signals the start of summer for many in Scotland, as it often coincides with the beginning of the school holidays.

While just enjoying the BBC's coverage of Wimbledon is enough for most, there are also lots of opportunities for you to learn with your kids.

The numbers of tennis

With the points running from 'love' through 15, 30, 40, 'deuce' and 'advantage', it's understandable that the unusual scoring system in tennis leaves some people scratching their heads.

But from a simple numeracy point of view, this offers the chance to do some counting or addition. Or you could take it a bit further and combine some creativity with the maths by creating a new, simpler scoring system for the game.

The physics of tennis

Something unique to tennis is the different types of court used to play the game. The French Open, for example, is played on a clay and is is said to be a "slower" tournament than Wimbledon, which is played on grass.

Andy Murray's fastest serve: 145 mph. Speed of ball after bouncing on clay 88.6 mph. Speed of ball after bouncing on grass 102.5 mph.

Why is it slower? On a clay court, when the ball bounces onto the court it 'grips' to the crushed brick that sits on the surface. A grass court doesn't have this though, meaning the ball won't grip as much.

This means that if Andy Murray hit his fastest ever serve, 145 miles per hour, on a clay court the ball would travel at 88.6 mph after bouncing. But on grass, it would be 102 mph.

What is happening between the ball and the court is an example of the concept of friction - the force between any two surfaces that are sliding, or are trying to slide, across each other. You can explore this idea with this fun activity based on the MI High TV show.

The technology of tennis

Two old wooden tennis racquets.

As with many sports, technology has played a part in evolution of tennis, and this is partly responsible for the modern game being played at higher speeds than during the era of John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg.

Tennis racquets used to be wooden but now they're made of graphite, fibreglass and other man-made materials. It means they're lighter - but just as strong. Strings were made from animal intestines - but modern ones made from polyester allow players to put a lot more spin onto the ball, as do larger sized racquet heads.

Again, the concept at work here is friction. Remember, it can be explained using many different things, so you can always pick a topic that might particularly appeal to your child, e.g. cars, skiing, parachuting... There are lots of videos on this in Class Clips.

So you can use the technological changes as a springboard to look at design and technology. For instance, you could talk about what else could be done in order to make tennis more fun? Would the game be better if you used two racquets instead of one? Or if the court was a different shape or had obstacles you had run around? You could turn these ideas into an art project by making drawings, either by hand or on your computer.

Have a game

Young boy hitting a backhand on a tennis court.

Of course, maybe watching and talking about tennis will inspire you or your family to get the racquets out of the cupboard.

In order to have a game, you'll obviously need to find somewhere to play and the Lawn Tennis Association has a list of courts in Scotland. However, the lack of facilities in certain parts of country can be a problem as Andy Murray's mother, Judy, admitted during a question and answer session at BBC Scotland.

If you find it hard to get to a full-sized tennis court, there are some alternatives that you can consider. Your local council may run "mini-tennis" sessions in its sports centres, where kids play on a smaller court with larger, slower balls. Or you could go to your local park and practice volleying or play a game like tennis-golf (where you have to reach a target in as few shots as possible.)

Remember, that the BBC Sport Academy has lots of videos to help you learn the basic skills and Bitesize PE has information about the different types of training programmes for various sports.

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