History of Tennis – A Short Journey to the Origin and Past Events

John Lochert


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No other game has such an exotic history as tennis. Tennis as a sport has a very long tradition of historical development. Many of us are totally in love with this game.

It has been long associated with royalty and often higher-ranked officials would be seen as patronizing throughout history, but the history of tennis isn’t as simple as other sports. It has multiple origin stories from Egypt and Greece to 12th century France and the Victorian era.

It has been both loved and despised by the people. They even once tried to outlaw the game! Crazy, right? But this game has been spilled into every bedroom and won people’s hearts. So let’s know the complicated but fascinating history of tennis.

Origin of Tennis

The origin of games that resembles modern tennis is pretty ancient. There are many different stories you can find about the origin of this game.

The history of tennis is a gradual development that started a thousand years ago. Many historians asserted that it was first started in ancient Egypt. Then again, According to some historical researchers, the game first originated in ancient Greece. So which one should we believe? For this, we need to take a dig through history.

Though there is no definitive evidence from which one can say with 100% certainty that it was derived from one particular country or that culture. But there are some facts that may indicate to us some roots.

Many people believe that it originated in the Niles valley of Egypt as the word “racket” derived from an Arabic word. The Arabic word is “Rakhat”, and this word means “palm”.

On the other hand, many researchers point back to the more ancient root of the game that originated in Hellenic Greek culture. But the most standard assumption in academia about the origin of tennis is that the game originated in Medieval France.

According to researchers, the word “Tennis” came from the French word “Tenez”. In French, the word “tenez” means to take heed. The game gradually developed from another game that was played in 12th century France. The game was known as “Paume”. After “Paume” there was the game of “Jeu de Paume” and eventually racquets.

Timeline of Tennis History

The history of tennis underwent many different stages of development. According to the research, the game originated in France, but it followed a thousand years of development. The evolution and history of modern tennis can be divided into three stages.

  • The real tennis.
  • The 20th-century tennis.
  • The open era of tennis.

The Real Tennis

It can be called both “Real tennis” and the “Royal Tennis”. The game was extremely popular in the courts of royals like the Habsburg family and the other European aristocrats of the era. Both the kings as well as nobles played the game a lot. The kings of the 16th frequently played it to the 18th century. The general people used to call it “tenez”.

Real Tennis in England

King Henry V is thought to be the torchbearer of tennis in England, but the enthusiasm of King Henry VIII highly popularized it. He was the first king who played the game with much gusto and valued it a lot. More surprisingly the game was known to be taken place at royal palaces pretty often. There are many stories of tennis games being played by the royal family members. This popularized the game in entire Britain. It was heard that during the reign of King James, there were more than 14 tennis courts.

Real Tennis in France

In France, the game was popularized by Francois I. he was a zealot admirer of the game. He promoted the game with great fascination. After him, his successor Henry ii continued the legacy of playing Tennis.

Real tennis has some interesting timelines as well.

1530: During this year, the first-ever tennis court was built by King Henry III. The court was known as “Hampton court”.

1877: In 1877, the first world championship was held. Before this, there was no known tournament like the world championship that happened in the history of tennis.

1897: Women got the opportunity to take part in the French Championship. The participation of women in the French Championship was a milestone in the history of the game.

The 20th-century Tennis

The 20th century was a rapidly progressing period for tennis. Many famous incidents took place that was thought to be milestones for the game during this era.

1900: The Davis Cup was introduced for the very first time at the beginning of the century. An Oxford student named Davis launched it. The cup was immensely popular and it takes place every year.

1913: The ILTF was founded in 1913. 13 members of 14 countries participated in the game. It was introduced to maintain a good relationship between the countries.

1919: A phenomenal incident took place in this period. Suzanne Lenglen became the first-ever woman who won the Wimbledon Championship. It was another milestone of the 20th century.

The Open Era of Tennis

The game was more professionalized during the period in that century. Lots of people choose the game as their career. Many amateur players got the chance to participate as a professional. This century made tennis more outstanding and took to people from all kinds of backgrounds. It is known as the “Open era”.

ATP association came to the limelight in this era as well.

The century is still going on, and we are living in an open era. We are experiencing and watching the game of many legendary players like Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic.

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Wrapping Up

The history of tennis had revolved in many ways from the 12th century to the 21st century. The French and English empires first introduced the game, tennis racquet, tennis balls, the length of a tennis court, and the game rules.

It was the game of royalty and elites from the very beginning. They have adopted the game with their lifestyle, and their fascination made this game’s way to day’s position.