History of Tennis
Photo: tennis

Women have plyed in Tennis tournaments as far back as 1887

A Brief History of Tennis

The history of tennis dates back several thousand years. The game was first created by European monks to be played for entertainment purposes during religious ceremonies.

Photo: Old tennis rackets

Photo: Vintage style tennis rackets.

To begin with, the ball was hit with the hand. Soon the leather glove came into existence. This was soon replaced with an adaptive handle for effective hitting and serving of the ball. Thus was born the first racquet. With the evolution of the racket, the tennis balls also underwent frequent alterations. The first tennis ball was wooden. It gave way to a bouncier, leather ball filled with cellulose material. The monasteries across Europe cherished the game during the 14th century much to the chagrin of the Church.

The game soon became very popular, predominantly in France where it was adopted by the royal family.  During the period between the 16th and 18th centuries, the game called ' Jeu de paumme' - the game of the palm was a highly regarded by kings and noblemen. The French players would begin the game by shouting the word “tenez!” which meant “Play!” The game soon came to be called royal or “real tennis.”

 In 1874, Major Walter Wingfield acquired the patent rights for the equipments and rules for the game which bore close resemblance to the modern tennis. On the same year, the first tennis courts emerged in the United States. The game soon spread to different parts of the world like Russia, Canada, China and India. The smooth croquet courts served as ready tennis courts during those times.  The original court devised by Wingfield was in the shape of an hourglass which tapered at the net. It was shorter than the modern court which we have today. His version of tennis courts and the rules of games underwent a fair amount of changes and amendments till the game gave to the modernized version which is played today.

People Who Influenced the History of Tennis

Harry Gem

Harry Gem excelled in cricket, running and racket playing. Combine the aspects of these sports and it’s not surprising that Gem is credited as being responsible for creating a game that has evolved into today’s game of tennis.  He was the first in bringing the game of lawn tennis to the public playing field in a joint effort with other Englishmen in creating a tennis club.  Gem established the laws of the game of lawn tennis in 1872 and these rules are still the basis of the game as it is played today.

Augurio Perera

Englishman Augurio Perera worked closely with Harry Gem and is known for his part in establishing the first organized tennis club with the creation of the Leamington Club. The first game played with the establishment of this club was on the lawn of the Manor House Hotel.  

Walter Clopton Wingfield

In December of 1873, Major Wingfield created a game based on a thirteen century game played in France called Jeu de Paume.  The latter game name means “game of palm,” and was much like the games played by monks in the fourteenth century.  Wingfield tried to patent his new game under the name Sphairistike that literally means “skilled at ball game” or “ball game.”  Wingfield’s game was an indoor version of the bare hand and ball game identified as Jeu de Paume.  The latter game was loved by French royals and enjoyed by King Francis I.  Later, Henry VIII of England also enjoyed the game on a regular basis. 

Mary Ewing Outerbridge

in the year 1874, a young female socialite by the name of Mary Ewing Outerbridge had took a trip to Bermuda.  While there, she met Wingfield and learned of the tennis game that he created.  When she returned from her trip, she established a tennis court in New York at the Staten Island Cricket Club.  This first tennis club was positioned where the Ferry terminal in Staten Island is located today.  By 1880, the first National tournament in America was played at the club established by Outerbridge

Tennis Becomes More Competitive

Originally the game could be played with a racquet, bat or with the hand.  Today’s game is played using a racket with many varieties available whether you are an amateur or professional player.  Originally a social game with two or 4 players, tennis has become a very competitive game.  The oldest tennis tournament is the Wimbledon Championships which were held in London, England in 1877.  This is still considered the most prestigious tournament in the world. The International Tennis Federation is the governing body of the rules tennis tournaments are based on and the United States Tennis Association is a member of the federation.

By the late 1880s, the first Wimbledon championships were played in London, England.  These games resulted in a debate pertaining to tennis gaming regulations.  At this time tennis regulations varied from one tennis club location to another.  IN 1881, the USNLTA was created, otherwise called the United States National Lawn Tennis Association.  Today this organization has shorted its moniker to United States Tennis Association or the USTA.  The latter organization was established in order to help standardize tennis playing regulations as well as to assist in the development of tennis competitions.

In 1881, the first US National Men’s Singles Championship was held: this game is now identified as the US Open.  Six years later, in 1887, the same competition was held for women.  The first French Open occurred in 1891 and the first Open in Australia occurred in 1905.  In 1900, a yearly competition for men identified as the Davis Cup was also organized.  The women’s synonymous competition is the Fed Cup created in the early 1960s. 

History of Tennis: Today

Present day professional tennis involves a number of popular competitions.  Championship games include things like the French Open®, the US Open®, the Australian Open®, and Wimbledon® Competitions.  The latter competitions are identified as the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments or the Majors.  Today, tennis games are played on a variety of different courts including grass courts, hard courts, carpeted courts, and clay courts.  Tennis competitions can include singles competitions were the game involves two players only; and doubles competitions where the game involves teams consisting of two players on each team.  Often times, players of the game in professional competitions are pitted against tennis players of the same sex, but there are instances where mixed doubles competitions are played; for example, all of the Majors competitions have a mixed competition. 

Today’s professional tennis games also include things like a pin challenge system and electric reviewing technologies, otherwise identified as the Hawk-Eye system.  These features allow for better gaming accuracies when a player decides to challenge an umpire’s ruling. These review technologies are utilized in WTA and ATP high-level tournaments.

Find More Information on the History Of Tennis

Tennis Channel®

Tennis Channel® is another website exploring all of the events surround the development of tennis.  This is a good site to visit to become familiar with how the game evolved and how and where the game is played today.  Web visitors can access a complete history of the game, historical facts, fun facts, tennis statistics, and they can also read up about tennis legends.  The site has a glossary, a player spotlight, a tennis tour schedule, a tour map, videos, and more.  For full details visit http://www.tennischannel.com/game/history.

United States Court Tennis Association

The United States Court Tennis Association has teamed up with the United States Court Tennis Preservation Foundation to offer the Court Tennis in the United States website.  This site has information on the history of the game, tennis quotations, information on how the game is played, headlines pertaining to the current tennis season, national league information, a tournament gallery, details on the 2010 World Championship, and a listing of tennis clubs in the United States.  For more information visit http://uscta.org/index.php?id=43.

Wimbledon

The official Wimbledon website has loads of information available about the history of tennis in England through to the present day. There is an online shop where you can purchase items relating to tennis, a Museum that you can visit or learn more about online, and you can also purchase tickets to current Wimbledon tennis games. There is even a live countdown clock to the next Wimbledon championship event. You can view all of this information easily online by going to http://www.wimbledon.com/.