The history of tennis

December 14, 2009
Tennis has been around for 7000 years. Today tennis is played and watched by
millions around the world. Over the course of time tennis has evolved from hand
ball to a racket and a wooden ball to a rubber ball.

The Game

12th to 18th century
Tennis began in the early 14th century. It originated from a 12th century French game called paume (meaning palm): a court game where the ball was hit by the hand. Between the 16th and 18th century, paume evolved into “jeu de paume” (game of the palm). In this game, unlike paume, rackets were used. The game would begin when one of the French players yell out, “tenez” which meant “play.” The game was evolved and spread in Europe.

18th to 19th century
In 1873, a British army officer named Major Walter Clopton Wingfeild invented a game called Sphairistike (Greek for “playing ball”), from which modern tennis evolved. Early players preferred to call the game lawn tennis. Lawn tennis was introduced to Bermuda in 1873 and from Bermuda to the United States by Mary Ewing Outerbridge. The first game of lawn tennis was played on the grounds of the Staten Island and Baseball Club in 1874. By the 19th century lawn tennis was introduced to the British colonies and other nations around the world.

In the 12th century, the game ‘paume’ involved hitting a ball with the palm of your hand. The game did not include a racket. The ball used was either a wad of hair, wool, or cork wrapped in string, cloth or leather (sheep or goat stomach). Those balls later evolved into lawn tennis balls in the 1870s which were made from rubber manufactured by Charles Goodyear. Before 1972 balls were black or white depending on the colors of the tennis court. However, that year the ITF (International Tennis Federation) used fluorescent yellow felt coverings so that the ball could be seen on television, thus our modern ball was born.

Around the 16th century the number 60 was considered auspicious or “complete”, in a similar manner to which the number 100 is considered to be a “complete” figure now. The medieval adaption of tennis thus considered 60 to be game with steps of four like 15, 30, 45 (or 40 as it is today) and finally 60.

Tennis has been played and watched by millions for centuries. Whether it’s court tennis, lawn tennis, jeu de paume, or Sphairistike, this game will always be a special part in sports repertoire.

Internet Sources

“The History of Tennis”

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This article has 5 comments. Post your own now!

the_invisible This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 10, 2010 at 5:53 pm
Tennis is my fav sport so this is a really great article, I didn't know many things :)
thanks for sharing it!
puffyPanda replied...
Feb. 10, 2010 at 6:52 pm
Thx for commenting! I enjo the feedback :)
puffyPanda said...
Feb. 5, 2010 at 7:34 pm
Hi, a lot of people have seen this picture but no one has commented nor rated it so I'd greatly appreciate it if you would take time out of your busy schedule to do so. Thank you :)
BelmaH said...
Jan. 11, 2010 at 8:30 pm
I really liked this informative essay on the history of tennis! I learned a lot. I especially like that you referenced your works, which is really professional and insightful. Great work!!!! :)
puffyPanda replied...
Jan. 12, 2010 at 11:14 am
Thank You! =D
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