The history of tennis spans many cultures over thousands of years. Different cultures since the Neolithic times have played games involving rackets and balls. There are indicators that ancient Romans, Egyptians, and Greeks played some type of tennis. Mesoamerican ruins showed that ball games were important in their culture. However, court tennis originated from game French monks played in the eleventh century.
Modern History of Tennis
The origin of the modern sport of tennis is paume, which is French for palm. Paume was a French court game in which players hit the ball with their palm. The game developed into jeu de paume and players used rackets to hit the ball.
Jeu de paume arrived in England, and both Henry VII and Henry VIII became fans of the sport. The sport spread like wildfire, and there were thousands of indoor courts built in the country. The Pope attempted to ban the sport but failed to do so. By 1500, gut and wood rackets were invented, and players used balls made of leather and cork.
However, the sport played by Henry VIII is different from the modern tennis played today. They played it indoors, and the objective of the game is to hit the ball into an opening in the roof of an indoor court. The net was three feet high in the centre and five feet high on both ends.
Evolution of Outdoor Tennis
The fame of indoor tennis declined in the 1700s. The next major milestone in the history of tennis came in the year 1850 with the development of vulcanised rubber, which resulted in the hard rubber ball that allowed tennis to be played on grassy surfaces.
Major Walter Wingfield created a game he called Sphairistike in 1873. The name is the Greek term for playing ball. He published the first book of rules and applied a patent for the game. This is the where the present day outdoor tennis came from. However, the game was initially played on a court with an hourglass shape. It became popular in Europe and spread to the US and China.
Croquet clubs adopted Wingfield’s game, and they played it on manicured lawns. That’s why outdoor tennis is now played on rectangular courts, instead of hourglass shaped ones. The All England Club Croquet organised its inaugural tennis tournament in Wimbledon in 1877 as a fundraiser. The rules made for the tournament became the rules for modern-day tennis.
However, it was only in 1884 when women were allowed to participate in Wimbledon. Rules required players to wear ties and hats, and only allowed underhand serves.
That’s the history of tennis. At present, players of all ages enjoy playing the sport. From a simple game of hitting the ball to the other side of the court, it now involves exploiting technical weaknesses and angles with strokes of various spins and speeds. Tennis has become a major sport that tournaments offer millions of dollars in prizes each year.