Origin of Tennis


Word Count: 456

Origin of Tennis

The origin of tennis like most origins of things, come as a mystery and has a lot of theories and disputes. One of the versions of the origin of tennis brings us back to the Stone Age man hitting rocks backwards and forwards possibly with clubs. A more extensive origin of tennis is derived from Handball, an adaptation of which was played in the ancient civilizations of Rome, Greece and Egypt. It is believed that the origin of the name 'tennis' came from an Egyptian town on the Nile called Tinnis and the word 'racquet' is taken from the word 'rahat' which means palm, both are Arabic words.

Another assumption on the origin of tennis believes that the French invented the game, around the 11th or 12th century, and that the word tennis is taken from the French word 'Tenez' which means 'take it' or 'play'. Legend has it that the game was given to French Royal Court in the 10th century by a wandering minstrel, but anyhow, by the 11th century early tennis was being played by French monks, they played the game by hitting the ball against the monastery walls and sometimes even over a rope strung across a courtyard. Hands were used to hit the ball in the beginning which is why it was first called jeu de paume (game of hand); then later on gloves were used and eventually players started to use short bats which came to be the modern day racquet. Louis IV and the Church both tried to ban the game in France because of the popularity the game was gaining where about 1800 courts were built, but they failed. By the 14th century, Tennis spread to England where both Henry VII and Henry the VIII became avid players of the game initiating building of courts across the country.

By 1500 the tennis racquet was no longer made completely of wood but consisted of a wooden handle with a sheep gut strung head. In 1850, Charles Goodyear invented vulcanization which resulted to bouncier balls being available for tennis game. In 1858, Major T.H. Gem and J.B. Perara invented an outdoor version of tennis which adapted for play on grass, and in 1873, Major Walter Wingfield reinvented a newer version of Tennis using modified rules and equipment which he patented under the name 'Sphairistike'. He can be said to be the father of modern day tennis.

The old game of Tennis still called jeu de paume in France experienced being overshadowed by the new found dominance of the Lawn version. Tennis is now called Real Tennis or Royal Tennis in Britain to differentiate it from Lawn Tennis and in the USA it is known as Court Tennis.

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