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History of Tennis

History of Tennis

access_time December 17, 2012

The history of tennis is long and intricate; while its roots stem in 12th century France in the palm game known as jeu de paume, tennis as we know it today was perfected in 18th and 19th century England.

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History of Tennis

access_time December 17, 2012
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Tennis or at least sports resembling tennis as we know it today have existed for centuries now. Apparently, the history of tennis goes back as early as twelfth-century France, where a game was played with the hands hitting a ball. One of these early sports that resembled tennis and that probably evolved into modern tennis was “jeu de paume” and it was a ball and court game. It was an indoor sports and it was played, as its name suggests, with the palms of the hands. Slowly, the game was improved by confectioning special gloves for the players, and then some paddle-like bats. Finally, towards the end of the seventeenth century, the racquets were introduced and they remained standard equipment to this day.

One of the most important figures in the history of tennis was King Louis X of France, who loved playing jeu de paume, but constantly complained about the difficulty of playing outdoors. This is why he was the first person in the history of tennis to move the game indoors. Subsequently, other European royal families adopted this “modern” sport and had special indoor tennis courts built in their palaces. Unfortunately for him, Louis X of France died after a particularly exhausting tennis game when he drank too much cooled wine and contracted pneumonia. Luckily for us, his fame and secured spot in history reveal him to us as the first known tennis player in the history of tennis.

Like we mentioned before, racquets were not introduced until the sixteenth-seventeenth century, and that is when the game started being called tennis as well. The term “tennis” comes from Old French, from the term tenez which can mean “hold!”, “take!”, or “receive!” Now the sport was starting to gain more and more popularity and it was regularly played in England too. Henry VIII of England, who is known for his sportsmanship and love of games used to play tennis as well and apparently was a big fan. Nevertheless, the sport was still played indoors, bouncing the ball off an opposing wall.

Nowadays this type of wall-bouncing tennis is known as “real tennis” whereas the court sport is simply tennis. Real tennis gradually lost its appeal, but in the 18th and 19th centuries things started shifting and the game changed. The racquets were modified and the game was moved back outdoors, in specially designed courts. Now it was England’s turn to change the history of tennis, and it got really involved too, by creating the world’s first tennis club and by revolutionizing the racquets and changing a few of the rules.

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