Going Back in Time
One of the most popular sports that features a long history, tennis is said to have its origins in 12th century France. Since then, tennis has become a favorite sport all over the world.
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Many historians consider 12th century as the early years of tennis. In France, tennis started as a game where in the ball must be struck using the palm of the hand. Imagine how tough tennis was! The word “tennis” was coined and used in the mid-13th century and was derived from an Old French word meaning “hold” or “receive”.
The game has been played using the palm, until the game was developed in 16th century and players began to use rackets. Since then, tennis became popular in other countries, particularly in England where it was exclusively played in indoor courts. However, a problem arose related to a team purposely hitting the wall in order to get the ball back to their side, which was deemed unfair for their opponents. Because of this, tennis was brought outside and outdoor courts were constructed. This is now called real tennis, and is a favorite game among royalties, especially King Henry VIII of England.
In 18th century, Harry Gem and Augurio Perera improved “pelota”, a Basque ball game, by means of using rackets and playing the game on a croquet lawn in Perera’s land property in Birmingham, UK. Together with two doctors, Gem and Perera formed the first tennis club in the world right at the Leamington Spa in the year 1872. The following year, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield created his own patented game named “sphairistike” or simply, “sticky”, based on real tennis and Gem & Perrera’s tennis.
While there were mini competitions conducted in different noble homes in England and other countries, it was in 1877 that the first Wimbledon championships were held. The Championships stirred controversy on the standardization of rules for tennis, as the balls used by players in one state or region was smaller compared to those utilized in another place. In 1874, Mary Wing Outerbridge had a meeting with Major Wingfield, and brought tennis to America by opening a tennis court at the Staten Island Cricket Club in New York. In 1880, the tennis court became the venue for the first American National Tournament. The winner in the singles match was O.E. Woodhouse, while the winners of the doubles match were local citizens.
Although the standardization of rules was initiated in 1877, it was not until the formation of the United States National Lawn Tennis Association on May 21, 1881 that the rules were set for the sports. The first set of standardized rules was used in the first US Open, then called “The U.S. National Men’s Singles Championship”. It was conducted at Newport, Rhode Island in 1881. On the other hand, the first U.S. National Women’s Singles Championships commenced in 1887.
The French people also enjoyed modern tennis, leading to the beginning of the French Open in 1891. Tennis also became popular in Australia, which led to the first Australian Open in 1905. Since then, the five most prominent tennis competitions have been the US Open, the Wimbledon, together with the Australian Open, and the French Open. The International Lawn Tennis Federation (now simply called International Tennis Federation or ITF) introduced comprehensive tennis rules in 1924.