The Game of Kings: How Tennis Started January 19, 2018 6:42 am
image shown is of the tennis court at FR121
The origins of any game of racket and ball including tennis are traditionally credited to 11th or 12th century French game ‘paume’ which was played with the hand and later advanced into ‘jeu de paume’ with the use of rackets.
However, not all historians agree on this, there is a theory that the word tennis comes from the name of Tinnis, a town in ancient Egypt, and the word racket – from rahat, meaning ‘palm of the hand’ in Arabic. It is believed that different versions of the game were played in ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece, although there is no additional evidence to that.
The nobility learned the game from the monks, and some accounts report as many as 1,800 courts in France by the thirteenth century. The game became such a popular diversion, both the pope and Louis IV tried unsuccessfully to ban it. It soon spread to England, where both Henry VII and Henry VIII were avid players who promoted the building of more courts.
Tennis rackets and balls, as we know them today, weren’t invented overnight either. In the 13th century bare hands were found too uncomfortable, and players started using a glove, then a wooden paddle, and eventually a paddle with a handle. Only in 1500s the first frame racket with the strings made of sheep guts was created.
The game’s popularity dwindled almost to nothing during the 1700s, but in 1850, Charles Goodyear invented a vulcanization process for rubber, and during the 1850s, players began to experiment with using the bouncier rubber balls outdoors on grass courts. An outdoor game was, of course, completely different from an indoor game played off walls, so several new sets of rules were formulated.
Walter Clopton Wingfield is usually given credit for the invention of modern tennis. He actually patented the game in 1874, pronounced a new set of rules and moved tennis from indoors to outdoors. The same year first tennis courts appeared in the United States, and shortly after that in Russia, India, Canada and China.
The first tennis championship was held in 1877 in Wimbledon, and is still considered the most prestigious one. US Open came into being a while later in 1881. Now there are four Grand Slam tennis tournaments: US Open, French Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon. The US Open tennis tournament was borne from two distinct tournaments — US National Singles Championship for men and US Women’s National Singles Championship, which were combined and renamed into US Open in 1968. Since then tennis has become a huge commercial and entertaining event with tournament tickets for the public and various sponsors and advertisers.
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