Unforced Error by The Onion on Federer

15:30 Sun 18 Jan 2009. Updated: 15:21 03 Apr 2009
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The Onion has done some good pieces on Federer in the past, and recently came up with this picture:

I like it quite a lot, but my enjoyment of it is marred by the last item on the Strong Side.

The point of the snippet is to suggest that Federer is so good that he can make music with sneaker squeaking during extended points. Amusing, sure, but: “during longer volleys” makes no tennis sense.

A volley, in tennis and other racket sports, means a ball that is struck before bouncing (it also has this meaning in soccer). I think people get confused on this one because of its gun-related meaning, which means a lot of shots fired at once.

While it does trigger my corrective impulse when I hear it in conversation, it doesn’t bother me all that much because it is a technical term, and people who don’t play or follow certain sports can’t really be expected to know it. However, if you’re writing a piece (even a really short piece) on tennis, you should really make sure you don’t screw up your terminology, and there’s no real excuse for not knowing the right meaning of the term while also knowing enough about Federer to make those jokes.

The correct term here is rally: a series of shots in a tennis point, e.g. “Federer prevailed after a long rally”, or “Federer ended the protracted rally with a forehand winner”.

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