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World Tennis History

Some historians believe that tennis first originated in the Ancient Egypt. There is a general belief that the word ‘racket’ derives from the Arabic word ‘rakhat’, which means a ‘palm’. However, the most common point of view is that French monks started to play tennis in 11-12 centuries. Tennis started to develop into a professional sport from 1872, when the first lawn tennis club was established. Hoa Pereira, a Portuguese merchant, and doctors Wellesley Tomkins and Frederick Haynes played a Spanish game with the ball called ‘pelota’ on lawns of the Leamington resort. Later, the original rules for lawn tennis were secured (tennis on a lawn).


Although it is impossible to state a definite origin of this game, it is recognized that a British army officer Walter Clopton Wingfield invented rules for tennis, later calling it ‘lawn tennis’ in 1873. He had noticed a significant commercial potential of lawn tennis and patented the game, though he failed to justify its creation. Mr. Winfield said that he had borrowed the principles of the Greek game called “Sphairistike” (Greek for playing ball). However, many researchers believe that he just used the principles of popular English games - playing at courts, squash rackets, playing badminton outdoors. Very first tennis players preferred to call Wingfield’s game “tennis on the green”, because they would play tennis on a small, grassy lawn.

Court Tennis

Lawn tennis is also known, as ‘court tennis’ was very popular in medieval France even among the upper classes. During the same time it was also very popular in Great Britain, especially in the times of Henry VIII. Historians hold a belief that the most of tennis terms derived from the French vocabulary. In fact, the word ‘tennis’ comes from the word ‘tenez’ (‘tenir’ means to hold/ catch in French). When tennis players were going to hit a serve, they would scream out ‘tenez’. The word ‘Deuce’ came from the French word ‘deux le jeu’ that means ‘equally’ - in other words to draw a score at the present stage of the game. Calling the score 15-30-40 derived from the euphonic French words ‘quinze’, ‘trente’ and ‘quarante’, or quarters (15-30-45, where 45 was transformed into 40).

The Davis Cup

777.jpgIn the beginning tennis ball was made out of wool and filled with sawdust, sand and wool. Later on a high-bound ball was invented, which allowed players to play on courts. In the USA the game was first organized thanks to Merry Young, and the country saw its first ever tennis match in 1874 on the courts of the cricket and baseball club on the Staten Island. The first amateur championship was played on the courts of the global English tennis and cricket club Wimbledon (men’s championship in 1877 and women’s championship in 1884). In 1900 was the first lawn tennis team championship called Davis Cup and it attracted great attention of the international tennis community. In 1963 the similar women’s championship was played called the Fed Cup. Both of those championships helped to enhance the prestige of lawn tennis.

Tennis Association

In the 20s when tennis started to bring much bigger profits, majority of the amateur players went professional. In the end of the 19th century tennis started to spread throughout English colonies, first Australia, and then further around the world. In the United States the rules for lawn tennis were constantly evolving until the 1991 when the USTA (United States Lawn Tennis Association) was established. The association has fixed the rules for lawn tennis and tournament procedures. Annual men’s single competitions were held in Newport under the aegis of the association (1881). The first women’s competition was organized in Philadelphia in 1887.

20th Century

0397.jpg In the 1968 the championship was renamed into now well-known ‘US Open’ and set to be played in the national tennis center, NY. At the beginning of the 20th century Wimbledon and US Open were the largest tournaments at the time. In the 1968 a new era in tennis began with both amateur and professional players having a right to participate in large-scale competitions. In 1971 the Women’s Tennis Association – professional women’s tournament was established that ensured the same financial support for both men and women. Lawn tennis tournaments can easily compete with the popularity of the Olympic games, where tennis players have been participating since 1988.