For the next couple of weeks we are going to take a look at one of my favorite sports – tennis. I have played tennis nearly all my life and will probably continue to play for as long as my body will let me. One of the great things about tennis is that you can start playing at any age, and you can continue playing for much longer than most sports. Plus, it is a fantastic way to stay in shape!
Of course, we will take a look at the history of tennis, and we will also discover how to play, we will look at that confusing scoring system, and tackle some of the key terms you will need to know to play. After reading this article, you will probably not be ready to take on Rafael Nadal or Serena Williams, but you should have a better understanding of how to play.
A Brief History
The history of tennis dates back several thousand years. The game was first created by European monks to be played for entertainment purposes during religious ceremonies. At first, there was no racket; the ball was hit with the hand. Soon, the monks started using leather gloves. This was then replaced with the precursor to the racket – an adaptive handle that made hitting serves much more effective. With the evolution of the racket, the tennis balls also underwent frequent alterations. The first tennis ball was wooden which gave way to a bouncier, leather ball. Today, a rubber ball covered in felt is used.
The game soon became very popular, predominantly in France where it was adopted by the royal family. During the 16th through 18th centuries, the game was called Jeu de paumme, “the game of the palm,” and it was a highly regarded by kings and noblemen. The French players would begin the game by shouting the word tenez which meant “play!” The game soon came to be called royal tenez or “real tennis.”
In the 1870s, the first tennis courts began to appear in the United States. 1874, Major Walter Wingfield acquired the patent rights for the equipment and rules of tennis in the United States. The original court devised by Wingfield was in the shape of an hourglass which tapered at the net. It was shorter than the modern court which we have today. His version of tennis courts and the rules of games underwent a fair amount of changes and amendments before the game that we know today emerged.
In 1924, the International Lawn Tennis Federation, now known as the International Tennis Federation, developed a comprehensive set of rules that have remained remarkably the same to this day.
There are several professional tennis tournaments held all over the world throughout the year. There are four major tennis tournaments, called the grand slams, that are worth more money and more points than any other tournament. They are the biggest tournaments of the year. They include The Australian Open (held in Melbourne, Australia in January), The French Open (held in Paris, France in May/June), Wimbledon (held in London, England in June/July), and The US Open (held in New York in August/September).
Different tennis tournaments are played on different surfaces. In the United States, you will mostly see hard courts. But there are also grass courts and clay courts. Of the Grand Slam tournaments, The US and Australian Opens are played on hard courts, Wimbledon is played on Grass, and the French Open is played on Clay.
Until next week,
Today’s Fun Fact: The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France shrinks six inches in the winter.