History of Tennis and Tennis Equipment

History of the Tennis Game

Tennis got its start as far back as the 8th century as a game called ‘La Soule’ played by Christian Monks. The Monks would hit a ball back and forth indoors and against courtyard walls using their hands or a stick. History shows the predecessor to today’s lawn tennis spread out of the monasteries by the 13th century. The game became very popular, particularly in France where players would begin a game by shouting ‘tenez’ meaning something to the effect of ‘take this’ or ‘play!’

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History of Lawn Tennis

The history of tennis took a critical turn in the 19th century with the development of vulcanized rubber, which allowed for the production of balls that would bounce. This allowed the game of tennis to be taken outdoors to any flat, grassy area. Here begins the history of lawn tennis. In 1874, Englishman Major Walter C. Wingfield patented in London the equipment and rules for the game that would later develop into modern-day tennis. He called the game, derived from court tennis, squash and badminton, “Sphairistiké” which is German for ball playing. Lawn tennis courts soon became commonplace across Europe and the US.

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Women in Tennis History

Throughout history, tennis has been considered both a man’s and woman’s game. It was a woman, Mary Ewing Outerbridge, who brought the game of lawn tennis to the US in 1874. Outerbridge learned the game while on vacation in Bermuda and shared the concept with her friends and family. Her brother, director of the Staten Island Cricket and Baseball Club, soon added a lawn tennis court to the club’s lineup.

By 1884, women were competing alongside men at Wimbledon. Maud Watson won the first women’s singles tennis title in 1884 and again in 1885.

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History of the US Open

The history of the US Open began in August 1881 as an amateur event known as the US National Singles Championship for Men, held at the Newport Casino in Newport, R.I. Only United States National Lawn Tennis Association members were permitted to enter. Women made their mark in tennis history six years later at the first US Open’s Women’s National Singles Championship held at the Philadelphia Cricket Club.

Today, the US Open is the world’s richest tennis event, open to amateurs and professionals.

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The History of Tennis Equipment

History of the Tennis Court

The earliest games of tennis where played in the courtyards of monasteries in Europe. As the game evolved into Real Tennis, popular among European nobility, the game was played on rectangular indoor courts with hard floors of wood or stone.  Tennis progressed into an outdoor sport played on grass fields. These field courts shared much of the same markings as today’s tennis courts, but had an hourglass shape, wide at the ends and narrow at the net. The rectangular design of today’s modern tennis court began in 1875.

It was not until the 1940’s that hard courts were used in official lawn tennis tournaments. In 1956 the Gallia Tennis Club in Cannes, France made history with the first clay tennis court. Today, many indoor courts utilize synthetic mats or carpets over concrete or other hard surfaces.

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History of the Tennis Racquet

In early tennis, played by monks, the ball was hit with the hand, similar to handball today. As hitting the ball became uncomfortable, players began using webbed gloves and paddles.

The history of the modern tennis racquet began in the 14th century. The early wooden framed racquet had a long handle and small, tear-drop shaped head with strings made of gut. The racquet head grew in size with the invention of lawn tennis, but changed little over the next 100 years. Though racquets with metal heads and wire strings were invented in 1889, they did not make tennis history until 1967, when Wilson Sporting Goods introduced the T2000. This metal racquet was stronger and lighter than wood and quickly became a top seller.

The next 30 years brought an explosion of innovations in racquet construction and design leading to today’s popular lightweight graphite racquets designed with oversized heads and wider frames.

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History of the Tennis Shoe

Like the tennis ball and lawn tennis, the history of the tennis shoe began in the 1800s with the invention of vulcanized rubber. The invention allowed for the creation of the first rubber-soled shoes, called plimsolls. In 1931, Adidas made history with the release of the first tennis shoe. Converse followed four years later with the releases of an athletic shoe named after the 1930’s badminton/tennis champion Jack Purcell. These tennis shoes soon became a staple among the Hollywood and “bad boy” crowd.

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