One of the most popular sports nowadays, enjoyed by tens of millions of people, tennis has had a very interesting history. Like most other sports, it has seen many changes, some of which crucial to its development and popularity. So, let’s take a look back at how this great sport has developed to become one of the most attractive and popular sports in the world.
It’s actually very old
Believe it or not, tennis is the direct descendant of jeu de paume, invented in France in the 11th century. This game was played with bare hands for centuries before rackets were introduced in the 16th century, along with the special scoring system that remains a great to puzzle to many (15, 30, 40, game). It was in the late 19th century, i.e. in 1870, that tennis was designed and codified in England. The name came from the French word “tenez!” (loosely translated as “here it comes!”), which a player was supposed to say to their opponent as they were about to serve.
Very soon, tennis became more popular than croquet, another enjoyable outdoor sport. The fact that the first Wimbledon tournament was held in 1877 tells you all you need to know about how quickly this sport became popular. Just three years earlier, Welsh Major Walter Clopton Wingfield came up with “A Portable Court of Playing Tennis”. Lawn tennis was codified and a rubber ball was introduced, due to its ability to bounce on grass. We have come a long way since then when it comes to the equipment used.
Clay was the first to follow grass, as it was introduced at the end of the 19th century. Soon, hardwood flooring followed suit and these surfaces were used for several decades, before the “hard” courts with concrete or acrylic surfaces made an appearance. Now, you can find a wide range of surfaces where you can test the stuff you bought from Tennis Gear, depending on your preference.
Women in tennis
Like most sports, tennis was originally a sport that only men could enjoy, but unlike most of them, tennis opened its door relatively quickly. It was in 1884 that women competed at Wimbledon. Needless to say, they were wearing long-sleeved dresses with corsets and hats. The situation was slightly different when the modern Olympic games are in question. The first games of the modern era were held in Athens in 1896 and men tennis players were part of the event. However, women had to wait four more years, until the 1900 Games in Paris, before they were allowed to contest on clay in the bucolic setting of the Ile de Puteaux in the middle of the Seine.
Tennis was becoming increasingly popular at the beginning of the 20th century. The national tennis associations joined forces in 1913 and created the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF). Tennis remained an Olympic sport until 1924, when the ILTF and the IOC fell out. During the absence from the Olympic programme, tennis experienced some major developments, including the concept of the “Grand Slam”. The sport became professional in 1968, while ATP and WTA started ranking players in 1973.
Return to the Olympic Games
Tennis was reintroduced to the Olympic Games in 1968 in Mexico City, but only as a demonstration sport. It wasn’t until 1984 and the Games in Los Angeles that tennis players took part in this great event. Winning the Olympic gold is something that has eluded many great players, but those who achieved this great result will be remembered forever.
As you can see, tennis has had quite an interesting history. There have been many unsuccessful attempts to change some rules as well, but that is quite normal for a sport that has been around for so long. What has remained the same, though, is the appeal of this magnificent sport.
Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.