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The History Of Tennis Explained

Oct 12, 2007
Tennis has its roots in the ancient game of handball, played in Greece long before the Christian era. During the Middle Ages it developed into a game of batting the ball between two opponents rather than against a wall. The name comes from the French "tenez," "take" or "ready." At first there were no boundary lines, but gradually a court was developed somewhat the shape of an hourglass, with a line drawn across the narrow middle portion.

The early balls were made of leather and stuffed with hair.

The racquet developed in the following way: for protection in hitting the ball, a glove was worn. Then, for greater protection, cords were wrapped around the glove. Later, an elongated glove, or paddle was used. With the need for a longer reach, the idea of a racquet evolved from the combination of paddle and cords.

In the Middle Ages the game was carried to England where it was played by the nobility. The scoring system was so intricate that the common people could not understand it, and the courts so expensive that only the wealthy had access to them. Not until 1874 was the scoring simplified and the game rules made adaptable for a simple outdoor court of grass.

The use of "fifteen," "thirty," etc. in scoring individual points may be explained as follows: The chases, or separate plays, were scored 1, 2, 3, etc. Fifteen "chases" entitled the player to one point, and the game was made up of four or five points. This explanation is one of several suggested by tennis historians and seems to be plausible.

The term "love" meaning "no score" originated from the phrase "for love," meaning "without stakes" or "for nothing," which was used as early as 1678 in connection with the playing of competitive games for the pleasure of playing. Then "love" became the term used in whist, football, tennis, etc., meaning "no score." The side which had scored no points was said to be "love."

After the scoring and rules were simplified, tennis became a more universal game in England and France, spreading rapidly to the colonies of these countries. Tennis was brought to the United States in 1875 by Mary Outerbridge after a visit to Bermuda, where the game was very popular. She brought racquets, net, and balls, and introduced the game to her friends on Staten Island where smooth lawns with excellent grass provided an ideal medium for success. The game spread like wild fire all over the east with Cricket Clubs including tennis as well as the other English game for their members.

In 1881 the United States Lawn Tennis Association was formed in New York and Boston. Through this organization the popularity of tennis spread very rapidly. Comparatively few of the tournaments in the United States are played on grass, and yet all official tournaments, whether on clay, cement, or asphalt courts, are sponsored by the U. S. L. T. A. There are city, state, sectional, and national tournaments played on different court surfaces for men, women, girls, boys, juniors. There are public park tournaments, intercollegiate tournaments, etc.

International competition consists of the Davis Cup Tournament, which originated in 1900. The Davis Cup has been around the world several times, being held by Australia, France, England, and the United States at various intervals. This competition is for men only.

The Wightman Cup Matches consist of competition for women between England and the United States. This cup has traveled across the Atlantic many times, borne by the victorious team, to rest in their native land until won back by the other team.

The majority of national tournaments in various countries are open to players from other lands, so that sometimes one hears of an English, French, or American star winning several national titles besides that of his own country.

Often the best sixty-four players who make entries for the state, sectional, or national tournaments are allowed to play. The qualification of a player consists of his tournament record during the year or years previous to that tournament.

This is a brief history of the wonderful game of tennis. Now you can enjoy playing it even more!
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