Over the past couple of years, tennis has grabbed major headlines in the sports section. The latest stories from the global tennis scene—from Naomi Osaka’s refusal to do press at the French Open to the all-teen final between Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez at the US Open—spread awareness and helped foster a far-reaching and youthful fan base across the world.
Although the precise origins of tennis are disputed, many historians date it some 800–900 years ago to France. The modern game of tennis originated in England in the 19th century. From there, the sport has blossomed into a popular global game with awe-inspiring players and competitions.
If you are a tennis fan, you may be well-versed in  the Grand Slam tournaments, their history, and the reasons so many people camp for Wimbledon tickets. But for those who are less familiar with the sport, here are some essential facts you should know about the Grand Slams, the world’s four major tennis tournaments.
Named after a suburban neighborhood in London, Wimbledon is the world’s oldest tennis tournament and arguably its most prestigious. Since it was founded in 1877, Wimbledon has been a regular fixture  of tennis. Although it was canceled several times amid the World Wars, it has taken place every year since, usually from late June through early July. A more recent dramatic twist was the game’s first cancellation in almost a century, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the many stars of Wimbledon, Maria Sharapova is the most iconic. In 2004, Sharapova burst onto the scene  by winning Wimbledon at just 17 years of age, defeating two-time defending champion Serena Williams; the Wimbledon victory made Sharapova a household name . She played against Williams more than 20 times since then, only to be defeated in all but one match.
The second-oldest Grand Slam tournament is the US Open, which was first held in 1881. In the first years, only men competed, until a women's championship was added in 1887. The US Open is the first major tournament to award equal prize money to men and women. As the highest-paying and final Grand Slam in the tennis calendar, the US Open and its winners grab worldwide attention every year. In 2021, teenagers Emma Raducanu (Britain) and Leylah Fernandez (Canada) rocked the tennis world by ascending to the women's final from the 150th and 75th place in world rankings, respectively. The historic all-teenage title match attracted instant acclaim from teenagers across the world.
On the other side of the Atlantic is France, where tennis is believed to have originated as a game played by the French nobility. As the birthplace of tennis, France has added a unique flavor to its Grand Slam event: the red clay courts. If you have ever seen a tennis game played on a red surface instead of green grass, it may have been a French Open match. The red clay court, the icon of the French Open, brings out the yellow ball’s movements, making it easier for the players to track the ball, but the dirt also slows down the ball’s speed, and thus presents unexpected challenges even to top competitors. Called “en tout cas (in any case)” in French, the red clay makes the French Open the most demanding tournament in the world, and its winners are often acknowledged as the best of the year.
Last but not least is the Australian Open. Started in the early 1900s and thus the youngest of all major tournaments, the Australian Open kicks off the Grand Slam calendar every January and sets the tone for the rest of the year. As the largest sporting event held in Australia, the tournament attracts massive attention from the local communities. For the Australian Open in 2021, Novak Djokovic is the all-time record holder in men’s singles titles with nine, and Serena Williams is the most successful women’s singles player with seven titles in the Open Era; the modern tennis era during which the Grand Slam tournaments allowed professionals to compete with amateurs.
The 2022 Grand Slam season has already begun, with Rafael Nadal capturing the men’s singles title at the Australian Open, from which superstars Roger Federer withdrew and Novak Djokovic was banned after he refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Nadal continued his sweep at the French Open, taking home the important men’s singles title. With two more tournaments still to come, all eyes are on who will bring home the most trophies this year. Will it be a familiar face making a return? Or will it be a newcomer surprising the world with new talent?