A Brief History of Tennis

history of tennis - terry newmyer

Some people might be surprised to learn that the game of tennis has been around for at least several hundred years. Some historians even believe that a game similar to today’s tennis was being played in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, but there is very little evidence that the game existed during this time. What historians do have are words that describe tennis, but no drawings or descriptions that tie the game to these ancient locations.

 

Humble Beginnings

The evidence that we do have on record is that tennis from today evolved from a game in 12th century France called “Paume,” meaning palm. The game was played by European monks in a closed courtyard and they hit a ball back and forth with their hands. At this time, there were no racquets used, this would come later when the game was taken up by French royalty.

 

Reaching France

Once the game reached French nobility through the monks instruction, racquets were eventually added, and the whole game of tennis took off. At this time, the game was called “Royal Tennis” but it was played by people of all classes. The game had more solidified rules and Francis I of France was reportedly a huge fan of tennis, even setting up courts throughout the country for everyone to enjoy. According to historians, tennis was so popular among the people that there were as many as 1,800 courts throughout France by the 13th century.

 

Tennis Ball Evolution

At first, the tennis ball used was nothing like what we see today. It wasn’t until the 1800s when bouncier tennis balls were created. Before that, wads of hair, cotton, or wool were primarily used to hit the ball back and forth.

 

Putting Rules in Place

Tennis prior to more modern times did not have standardized rules and regulations, and they typically varied from place to place. In 1874, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield, an inventor and British officer created a patent of the rules and equipment that should be used for tennis, effectively making the game more easy to follow for everyone. His rules were the basis for modern tennis playing and most are still used today.

 

Finalizing the Game

In 1877, the first Wimbledon tournament was held and the rules of tennis were further adjusted, as was the size of the court and height of the tennis net. By 1882, the point system was finalized and the game of tennis continued to gain popularity with the masses.