Hoffman's Houston
you can't return this serve

Ken Hoffman serves up a wicked quiz for diehard Houston tennis fans

Ken Hoffman serves up a wicked quiz for diehard Houston tennis fans

Houston, Ken Hoffman, Serena Williams, July 2017
Who did Serena Williams beat to get to her five consecutive Grand Slam finals? Serena Williams/Facebook

The Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Tennis Championship was supposed to be held this month at the River Oaks Country Club. It’s the premiere tennis event held in Texas each year, but alas, the tennis tourney is another victim of the coronavirus pandemic.

So instead, in a substitute for real sports only slightly less disappointing than ESPN airing old spelling bee contests … I’ve come up with a challenging, but hopefully fun and interesting, tennis trivia quiz.

I’m not kidding, it’s a tough quiz. I doubt if my so-called tennis “experts,” like Charlie Pallilo, Ed Emmett, and Russell Henderson could get five right. Me? I scored a perfect 10, plus the bonus question — but that’s because I put the quiz together.

Here goes, answers at the bottom, but no cheating. (I’m looking at you Pallilo).

1.  Who is the only male tennis player to appear in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue? 

2.   Who was the opponent when Monica Seles was stabbed by a crazed Steffi Graf fan in 1993?

3.  What gas is pumped into tennis balls so they’ll bounce?

4.  Who was the first player to win a Grand Slam event after gaining entry as a wild card?

5.  Andre Agassi’s father participated in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics. Name the sport and the country he represented.

6.  Many pro tennis players use “cat gut” strings. What animals’ intestines are used to make “cat gut” strings?

7.  What annual tennis event awards the “International Lawn Tennis Challenge Trophy?”

8.  Serena Williams won five consecutive Grand Slam finals: 2002 French Open, 2002 Wimbledon, 2002 U.S. Open, 2003 Australian Open, and the 2003 French Open. Can you name the player she defeated in each of those events?

9.  Who is the only player to defeat Roger Federer in all four Grand Slam tournaments?

10.   The fastest serve ever hit by a male player is 163.4 mph by former River Oaks participant Sam Groth. He struck the missile at an ATP Challenger event in Busan, South Korea. Who holds the record for fastest serve by a woman? Can you come within 3 mph of the speed?

Bonus points: Rank these balls in order of diameter from smallest to largest: a baseball, a tennis ball, a racquetball, a polo (on horses) ball, Wiffle ball, and lacrosse ball. Clue: they’re all pretty close, otherwise I wouldn’t be asking, now would I? 

1. Rafael Nadal in 2012.

2. Magdalena Maleeva from Bulgaria, home country of Grigor Dimitrov who was scheduled to play at this year’s event at River Oaks.

3. Inert nitrogen. You’re wrong if you said helium, although helium-filled balls would be tremendous. A lob would vanish into space.

4. Goran Invanisevic won Wimbledon with a wild card invitation in 2001. Kim Clijsters later won the U.S. Open as a wild card in 2009, one of those years when Serena Williams had a meltdown.

5. Emmanuel Agassi was a boxer on the Iran Olympic team. He lost his first bout both times.

6. Cows and sheep.

7. That’s the official name of the Davis Cup. I’ll bet you answered Wimbledon.

8. Venus Williams in all five.

9. Novak Djokovic. Oh, by the way, the only player to defeat Novak Djokovic in all four Grand Slam tournaments is Roger Federer.

10. Sabine Lisicki of Germany walloped a 131-mph serve against Ana Ivanovic at the 2014 Bank of the West Classic. The record for most aces in a women’s match is 31, held by Kristyna Pliskova (the less successful Pliskova sister) against Monica Puig at the 2016 Australian Open.

Bonus answer: Racquetball (2.25 inches). Lacrosse (2.5 inches). Tennis (2.575 to 2.7 inches). Baseball (2.87 to 3 inches). Wiffle ball (2.87 to 3.15 inches). Polo (3 to 3.5 inches).