#1. TENNIS DATES BACK TO 12TH CENTURY FRANCE
Tennis dates back to 12th century France when it was played in the form of a handball game called ‘paume’ or palm. The game involved hitting a ball back and forth by hand. In time, a black leather glove was used and then from there a handle was added to the glove, which formed the first racquet.
The game was originally played by monks as a form of entertainment during ceremonial occasions. Monks all over Europe enjoyed playing the game of “jeu de Paume” during the 14th century. Over time, the game spread and evolved throughout Europe and beyond.
#2. WHERE TENNIS GOT ITS NAME FROM
It is believed that the word ‘tennis’ derived from an earlier version of the game played by monks in the 12th century. Their version of the game involved throwing and catching a ball while shouting “tenez,” which means to take heed.
#3. THE FIRST TENNIS BALLS WERE MADE OF WOOD
Original tennis balls were crafted from wood, it wasn’t until later that a cellulose material was used to make the balls bouncier.
#4. HOW SCORING ORIGINATED – 15, 30 AND 40
While most sports keep the scoring system simple, tennis… not so much. It is believed that the scoring system comes from medieval France and that a clock face was used to indicate the scores. For every point scored, the hand was moved to the next quarter (15, 30, 45). The first player to reach 60 was the winner and the game ended.
Although, this is a little confusing considering the scoring system is now 15, 30 and 40. One explanation for the discrepancy is that players had to win by two points, therefore the hand was moved to 40 and then 50 with the win coming on the hour.
Another theory is that the scoring system was created in reference to the number of yards the ball traveled. Today’s courts measure a standard 78 feet long, but in the early days courts were 90 yards long, with 45 yards per side. Each time a player scored, players moved 15-feet forward. The third point was scored with both players up at the net, and so the final point was made at 10 yards.
#5. KING HENRY VIII HAD A TENNIS COURT
English King Henry VIII built a tennis court at Hampton Court Palace. While this exact court is no longer in existence, a similar court was built in its place in 1625. It is still in use today.
The game was largely played by the royal and wealthy members of society. In fact, the Wimbledon district of London formed the All England Croquet Club. To this day, the game is played by royalty and wealthy benefactors.
#6. THE INVENTION OF LAWN TENNIS
In 1873, Major Walter Wingfield invented a version of tennis that could be played outdoors on a lawn. He called the game ‘Sphairistike,’ which is Greek for “playing ball.” It was played by rich English people on Manor House lawn. This is the first instance where tennis began to look like the game we know and love today. In 1874, the very first lawn tennis tournament was played in the USA.
#7. FIRST OF MANY
In 1881, the very first US Open was played after America founded The United States National Lawn Tennis Association.
In 1896, tennis was first played in the Olympic games.
In 1897, the French Championships were opened to women tennis players for the first time in French history.