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A Look Into The History of Tennis

Glenn Duker

Tennis is a modern adaptation to the ancient sport "jeu de paume". It was codified by England in the 1870s and has become one of the most widely followed sports worldwide. During medieval times, the sport was practised only with bare hands. It wasn't until the 16th century when rackets started to become integrated into the sport. Tennis gets its name from the French word "tenez," which translates to "here it comes", referring to what people would say to their opponents as they prepare to serve the ball. Below we will discuss the further development of tennis over the years, with details included from an article on the official Olympics website. 

As time went on, tennis became very popular in England, overshadowing the popularity of croquet. In 1874, a publication called "A Portable Court of Playing Tennis" was written by Welsh Major Walter Clopton Wingfield. This book laid out the various details in playing lawn tennis for the first time since the sport was established. One of the defining elements of the book was the introduction of the rubber ball, which was able to bounce on grass. After this, Wimbledon then had their first tournament in 1877. 

Moving towards the end of the 19th century, surfaces started to change. Floors went from grass to clay to hardwood and then concrete surfaces. Additionally, women began to participate heavily in the sport, already playing in Wimbledon in 1884. By 1913, the popularity of tennis began to spread all over the world. Soon, an international conference was held in Paris along with 12 other countries, and as a result, the International Lawn Tennis Federation was formed. However, contrary to the growing love for the sport by players and watchers globally, tennis was formally removed from the Olympic games in 1924. 

Although tennis endured an absence from the Olympics, developments to the sport continued to be made. The concept of the grand slam came about in the 1930s, which signified the accomplishment of winning all four major tournaments. These four tournaments include the French Open, the Australian Open, the US Open, and Wimbledon. In 1968, the sport allowed athletes to go professional, and 1973 brought the beginning of the ATP and WTA weekly and global ratings. 

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