Brute physicality, ferocious competition, socially acceptable grunting … these are just a few of the things that make the US Open one of sport’s grandest spectacles. Of course, there’s another element that also happens to make it one of the strangest: its language.

Tennis uses an offbeat lingo all its own, a bizarre collection of terms that can send a grammarian’s brain spinning like a wicked slice. And nowhere is this fascinating lexicon more on display than under the bright lights of New York City in America’s biggest tournament: the US Open.

Thankfully, as insurance experts, we’re no stranger to demystifying confusing terminology. And as a proud sponsor of the 2014 US Open, we at Esurance are also the perfect candidate to clear up the tennis terms you’ve long wondered about. After all, whether you’re enjoying the tourney in-person or from the couch, you deserve to know just what in the blazes is going on!

Here are the essential tennis terms you need to embrace the US Open like a pro:

Ace: noun. A serve that the returner can’t hit back. Instant source of joy and confidence for the server, at least according to all my former JV tennis opponents.

Ad court: noun. The left side of the court when facing the net.

Arthur Ashe Stadium: noun. Holds the largest court of the US Open. Generally reserved for the biggest matches and most inspiring fist-pumps.

Break: verb. To win a game on the opponent’s serve.

Chair umpire: noun. The lead umpire. Sits center-court atop a towering chair and is tasked with enforcing the rules, making final decisions on “in” or “out” calls, and discreetly letting male players know if they’re starting to go bald.

Deuce: noun. The score when a game’s tied at 3 points apiece (or “40-40”). Players must score 2 consecutive points after deuce to win. If they trade off points, the score reverts to “Deuce” again.

Deuce court: noun. The right side of the court when facing the net.

Fault: noun. A serve that lands out of bounds or goes into the net. Two faults in a row (or a “double fault”) results in a point for the opponent.

Flushing Meadows: noun. Public park in Queens, NY, that’s home to all courts of the US Open. Less notably, a pretty cool cologne name, right?

Garghhh!: interj. What you’ll scream while sitting in traffic on the way to the US Open, realizing you should’ve listened to the hotel concierge and just taken the subway.

Grand Slam: noun. The highest order of tennis tournament. There are 4 Grand Slams every calendar year, with the US Open coming last. (The Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon are the others).

Ground stroke: noun. When a player hits the ball after it’s bounced on the ground.

Heat index: noun. Precise measure of human misery as a result of temperature and humidity. By all accounts, the single most popular phrase one will hear in New York in late August.

Hustle: noun. Impossibly rare and concentrated form of energy that allows ball boys and ball girls to track down errant green spheres with the reflexes of a baby puma.

Love: noun. Another word for zero points. For example, if your opponent scored the first point in a game, you would be down “15 to Love.” Which, really, sounds rather charming.

Mrpphthmpurhhp: noun. The only muffled sound you’ll be able to hear from anyone’s mouth as yet another plane takes off from (very) nearby LaGuardia Airport.     

Poach: verb. In doubles, to intercept a shot at the net that would otherwise be your partner’s to hit. And, like stealing Christmas gifts during cutthroat rounds of White Elephant, it was the most common argument-starter in the Bryan Brothers’ household.

Shank: noun. A badly misplayed shot that comes off the frame of the racket. Its loud thwacking sound signals a player on the verge of collapse, at least according to all my former JV tennis opponents.

Slamboni: noun. Mini hockey Zamboni with squeegee and vacuum technology for quickly drying the courts after rain. Visit to get trusted protection for your personal slamboni today (just kidding).

Unisphere: Iconic, giant globe statue from the 1964 World’s Fair sitting just outside the US Open grounds. Also, the most useful “remember where we parked” benchmark possibly ever.

Volley: verb. To hit a ball without letting it first touch the ground.

More about Esurance at the 2014 US Open

And here’s one more term for you: the modern world. What does this mean? Simply put, it means that Esurance will be back in New York as a proud sponsor of the US Open for our fifth consecutive year. And as usual we’ll be bringing a modern approach to everything we do.

Not only are we using cool technology to help the Bryan Brothers get a taste of the Big Apple (without leaving the locker room),we’re also using social media and a digital presence onsite to allow fans to share their US Open tips and experiences (in a big way). Plus, we’ll offer Beat the Pros tennis trivia and lots of chances to score autographs from some of the biggest names in tennis.

So, if you’re heading to Flushing Meadows this week, don’t forget to stop by the Esurance booth in the South Plaza for your chance to win cool prizes and meet awesome players.*

Can’t make it to the tourny? No problem. Follow us on Twitter and be on the look out for your shot at an exclusive one-on-one video chat with some of today’s top tennis talent. (Been dying to get tennis tips from Grand Slam Champ, Victoria Azarenka? This might be your chance!)

*Subject to rules.



about Alex

As copywriter for Esurance, Alex had professional experience in everything from film to literature to (thanklessly!) correcting the grammar in friends' emails. As a fervent Minnesota sports fan, he spends most of his non-writing time gently weeping into cereal bowls.