History of tennis
Most historians believe that tennis originated in the monastic cloisters in northern France in the 12th century, but the ball was then struck with the palm of the hand hence the name the name jeu de paume ("game of the palm"). It was not until the 16th century that rackets came into use, and the game began to be called "tennis." It was popular in England and France, although the game was only played indoors where the ball could be hit off the wall. Henry VIII of England was a big fan of this game, which historians now refer to as real tennis.
The Davis Cup, an annual competition between men's national teams, dates to 1900. The analogous competition for women's national teams, the Fed Cup, was founded as the Federation Cup in 1963 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the International Tennis Federation, also known as the ITF.
In 1926, promoter C.C. Pyle created the first professional tennis tour with a group of American and French tennis players playing exhibition matches to paying audiences. The most notable of these early professionals were the American Vinnie Richards and the Frenchwoman Suzanne Lenglen. Once a player turned pro he or she could not compete in the major (amateur) tournaments.
In 1968, commercial pressures and rumors of some amateurs taking money under the table led to the abandonment of this distinction, inaugurating the open era, in which all players could compete in all tournaments, and top players were able to make their living from tennis. With the beginning of the open era, the establishment of an international professional tennis circuit, and revenues from the sale of television rights, tennis's popularity has spread worldwide, and the sport has shed its upper/middle-class English-speaking image (although it is acknowledged that this stereotype still exists).
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Royal origins
- 3 Birth of lawn tennis
- 4 Terminology
- 5 Tournaments and tours
- 6 Open Era
- 7 Hall of Fame
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
The word "Tennis" came into use in English in the mid-13th century from Old French, via the Anglo-Norman term Tenez, which can be translated as "hold!", "receive!" or "take!". A call from the server to his opponent indicating that he is about to serve. The first known appearance of the word in English literature is by poet John Gower in his poem titled 'In Praise of Peace' dedicated to King Henry IV and composed in 1400; "Of the tenetz to winne or lese a chase, Mai no lif wite er that the bal be ronne". (Whether a chase is won or lost at tennis, Nobody can know until the ball is run).[a]
Tennis is mentioned in literature as far back as the Middle Ages. In The Second Shepherds' Play (c. 1500) shepherds gave three gifts, including a tennis ball, to the newborn Christ. Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur's round table, plays tennis against a group of 17 giants in The Turke and Gowin (c. 1500).
The Medieval form of tennis is termed as real tennis. Real tennis evolved over three centuries, from an earlier ball game played around the 12th century in France which involved hitting a ball with a bare hand and later with a glove. By the 16th century, the glove had become a racquet, the game had moved to an enclosed playing area, and the rules had stabilized. Real tennis spread in popularity throughout royalty in Europe, reaching its peak in the 16th century.
In 1437 at the Blackfriars, Perth, the playing of tennis indirectly led to the death of King James I of Scotland, when the drain outlet, through which he hoped to escape assassins, had been blocked to prevent the loss of tennis balls.  James was trapped and killed.
Francis I of France (1515–47) was an enthusiastic player and promoter of real tennis, building courts and encouraging play among the courtiers and commoners. His successor Henry II (1547–59) was also an excellent player and continued the royal French tradition. In 1555 an Italian priest, Antonio Scaino da Salothe, wrote the first known book about tennis, Trattato del Giuoco della Palla. Two French kings died from tennis related episodes—Louis X of a severe chill after playing and Charles VIII after hitting his head during a game. King Charles IX granted a constitution to the Corporation of Tennis Professionals in 1571, creating the first pro tennis 'tour', establishing three professional levels: apprentice, associate, and master. A professional named Forbet wrote and published the first codification of the rules in 1599.
Royal interest in England began with Henry V (1413–22.) Henry VIII (1509–47) made the biggest impact as a young monarch; playing the game with gusto at Hampton Court on a court he built in 1530. It is believed that his second wife Anne Boleyn was watching a game when she was arrested and that Henry was playing when news of her execution arrived. During the reign of James I (1603–25), London had 14 courts.
Real tennis is mentioned in literature by William Shakespeare who mentions "tennis balles" in Henry V (1599), when a basket of them is given to King Henry as a mockery of his youth and playfulness; the incident is also mentioned in some earlier chronicles and ballads. One of the most striking early references appears in a painting by Giambattista Tiepolo entitled The Death of Hyacinth (1752–1753) in which a strung racquet and three tennis balls are depicted. The painting's theme is the mythological story of Apollo and Hyacinth, written by Ovid. Giovanni Andrea dell'Anguillara translated it into Italian in 1561 and replaced the ancient game of discus, in the original text with pallacorda or tennis, which had achieved a high status at the courts in the middle of the 16th century. Tiepolo's painting, displayed at the Museo Thyssen Bornemisza in Madrid, was ordered in 1752 by German count Wilhelm Friedrich Schaumburg Lippe, who was an avid tennis player.
The game thrived among the 17th-century nobility in France, Spain, Italy, and in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but suffered under English Puritanism. By the Age of Napoleon, the royal families of Europe were besieged and real tennis was largely abandoned. Real tennis played a minor role in the history of the French Revolution, through the Tennis Court Oath, a pledge signed by French deputies on a real tennis court, which formed a decisive early step in starting the revolution. In England, during the 18th and early 19th centuries as real tennis died out, three other racquet sports emerged: racquets, squash racquets, and lawn tennis (the modern game).
Birth of lawn tennis
The modern sport is tied to two separate inventions.
Between 1859 and 1865, in Birmingham, England, Major Harry Gem, a solicitor, and his friend Augurio Perera, a Spanish merchant, combined elements of the game of rackets and the Spanish ball game Pelota and played it on a croquet lawn in Edgbaston. In 1872, both men moved to Leamington Spa and in 1874, with two doctors from the Warneford Hospital, founded the world's first tennis club, the Leamington Tennis Club.
In December 1873, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield designed and patented a similar game—which he called Sphairistikè (Greek: σφάίρίστική, from ancient Greek meaning "skill at playing at ball"), and was soon known simply as "sticky"—for the amusement of his guests at a garden party on his estate of Nantclwyd, in Llanelidan, Wales. He likely based his game on the evolving sport of outdoor tennis including real tennis. Much of modern tennis terminology also derives from this period, as Wingfield borrowed both the name and much of the French vocabulary of real tennis and applied them to his new game. He patented the game  in 1874 with an eight-page rule book titled "Sphairistike or Lawn Tennis", but he failed to succeed in enforcing his patent. In his version the game was played on an hour-glass shaped court and the net was higher (4 feet 8 inches). The service had to be made from a diamond-shaped box at one end only and the service had to bounce beyond the service line instead of in front of it. He adopted the Rackets-based system of scoring where games consisted of 15 points (called 'aces').
Wingfield borrowed both the name and much of the French vocabulary of real tennis:
- Tennis comes from the French tenez, the plural imperative form of the verb tenir, to hold, meaning "hold!", "receive!" or "take!", an interjection used as a call from the server to his opponent to indicate that he is about to serve.
- Racket derives from the Arabic rakhat, meaning the palm of the hand.
- Deuce comes from à deux le jeu, meaning "to both is the game" (that is, the two players have equal scores).
- The origin of the use of Love for zero is disputed. It is possible that it derives from "l'oeuf", the French word for "egg", representing the shape of a zero. Another possibility is that it derives from the Dutch expression "iets voor lof doen", which means to do something for praise, implying no monetary stakes.
- The reason for the numbering of scores being "15", "30" and "40" is unknown. Historical sources suggest the system was originally 15, 30, 45 with the 45 simplified to 40 over time. Common theories are that it originated from the quarters of a clock, or from gambling stakes.
Tournaments and tours
The Four Majors
The four Majors or Grand Slam tournaments, the four biggest competitions on the tennis circuit, are Wimbledon, the US Open, the French Open, and the Australian Open. Since the mid 1920s they became and have remained the most prestigious events in tennis. Winning these four tournaments in the same year is called the Grand Slam (a term borrowed from bridge).
The Championships, Wimbledon, were founded by the All England Club in 1877 to raise money for the club. The first Championships were contested by 22 men and the winner received a Silver Gilt Cup proclaiming the winner to be "The All England Lawn Tennis Club Single Handed Champion of the World". The first Championships culminated a significant debate on how to standardize the rules. The following year it was recognized as the official British Championships, although it was open to international competitors. In 1884 the Ladies Singles and Gentlemen's Doubles Championships were inaugurated, followed by the Ladies and Mixed Doubles in 1913.
1881: U.S. Open
Tennis was first played in the U.S. at the home of Mary Ewing Outerbridge at the Staten Island Cricket Club in New Brighton Staten Island, New York in 1874. In 1881, the desire to play tennis competitively led to the establishment of tennis clubs.
The exact location of the club was under what is now the Staten Island Ferry terminal. The first American National tournament in 1880 was played there. An Englishman named O.E Woodhouse won the singles match. There was also a doubles match which was won by a local pair. There were different rules at each club. The ball in Boston was larger than the one normally used in NY. On May 21, 1881, the United States National Lawn Tennis Association (now the United States Tennis Association) was formed to standardize the rules and organize competitions.
The US National Men's Singles Championship, now the US Open, was first held in 1881 at Newport, Rhode Island. The U.S. National Women's Singles Championships were first held in 1887 in Philadelphia.
The tournament was made officially one of the tennis 'Majors' from 1924 by the ILTF (though regarded unofficially as such before that time)
1891/1925: The French Open
Tennis was predominantly a sport of the English-speaking world, dominated by Great Britain and the United States. It was also popular in France, where the French Open dates to 1891 as the Championat de France International de Tennis. This tournament was not recognised as a Major or Grand Slam tournament until it was opened to all nationalities in 1925.
1905: Australian Open
The Australian Open was first played in 1905 as The Australasian (Australia and New Zealand) Championships. Because of its geographic remoteness, historically, the event did not gain attendance from the top tennis players. It became one of the major tennis tournaments starting in 1924 (designated by the ILTF). In 1927, because of New Zealand tennis authorities releasing their commitments to the tournament, it became known as the Australian Championships. For most of the 1970s and the early 1980s, the event lacked participation from top ranked tennis professionals. Since its move to Melbourne Park in 1988, the Australian Open has gained the popularity of the other three Grand Slams.
The Davis Cup
In 1898, Dwight F. Davis of the Harvard University tennis team designed a tournament format with the idea of challenging the British to a tennis showdown. The first match, between the United States and Great Britain was held in Boston, Massachusetts in 1900. The American team, of which Dwight Davis was a part, surprised the British by winning the first three matches. By 1905 the tournament had expanded to include Belgium, Austria, France, and Australia, a combined team from Australia and New Zealand that competed jointly until 1913.
The tournament was initially known as the International Lawn Tennis Challenge. It was renamed the Davis Cup following the death of Dwight Davis in 1945. The tournament has vastly expanded and, on its 100th anniversary in 1999, 130 nations competed.
International Tennis Federation
1913 also saw twelve national tennis associations agree at a Paris conference to form the International Lawn Tennis Federation, which was renamed in 1977 as the current International Tennis Federation (ITF). The rules the association promulgated in 1924 have remained remarkably stable in the ensuing ninety years, the one major change being the addition of the tie-break system designed by James Van Alen.
That same year, tennis withdrew from the Olympics after the 1924 Games but returned 60 years later as a 21-and-under demonstration event in 1984. This reinstatement was credited by the efforts by the then ITF President Philippe Chatrier, ITF General Secretary David Gray and ITF Vice President Pablo Llorens, and support from IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch. The success of the event was overwhelming and the IOC decided to reintroduce tennis as a full medal sport at Seoul in 1988.
The Fed Cup
The idea of a Davis Cup-style tournament for national women's teams is surprisingly old—it was first proposed in 1919 by Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman. After she was turned down, she donated a trophy in 1923 that would be known as the Wightman Cup, awarded in an annual match between the two strongest women's tennis nations of the time, the United States and Great Britain.
Wightman's original idea for a worldwide women's team tournament would bear fruit more than 40 years later in 1962, when Nell Hopman persuaded the ITF to begin sponsoring such an event. The first Federation Cup was played in 1963 as part of the ITF's 50th anniversary celebrations; it involved 16 countries and was played over one week. By the 1990s, over 70 nations competed each year, and regional qualifiers were introduced in 1992. In 1995, the ITF introduced a new Davis Cup-style format for the competition and rechristened it the Fed Cup.
The main events of the professional circuit comprised head-to-head competition and by-invitation Pro Championships, which were the precedents for the Grand Slam tournaments before the Open Era began in 1968.
The leading professional players were under contract with a professional promoter before the Open Era. For example, popular players like Suzanne Lenglen and Vincent Richards toured North America under contract to Charles C. Pyle. Contract players were controlled by their promoters and could not always play the tournaments they wanted while amateur players followed national (and international) federations. For example, In 1939, Norman Brookes, president of the Australian Federation, decided not to send Australian players to Wimbledon because he wanted them to prepare for the Davis Cup. Therefore, great Aussie players as John Bromwich or Adrian Quist went to the USA instead of Wimbledon. During the first hundred years of tennis the players had absolutely no control over their destinies.
Most professionals played in separate professional events, mostly on tours in head-to-head competition referred as pro tours.
In 1926, promoter C. C. Pyle established the first professional tour with a group of American and French players playing exhibition matches to paying audiences. The most notable early professionals were American Vinnie Richards and Frenchwoman Suzanne Lenglen. Once a player turned pro he or she could not compete in the major (amateur) tournaments. In the years before the open era, male professionals often played more frequently on tours than in tournaments because head-to-head tours between two stars paid much better than tournaments and the number of professional tournaments was small. For example, Fred Perry earned U.S. $91,000 ($1,492,863 today) in a 1937 North American tour against Ellsworth Vines but won only U.S. $450 ($7,539) for his 1938 victory at the U.S. Pro Tennis Championships. Vines probably never entered a tournament in 1937 and 1938. In 1937, Vines played 70 matches on two tours and no tournament matches. Even in the 1950s, some professionals continued to play tour matches. During his first five months as a professional (January through May 1957), Ken Rosewall played 76 matches on a tour against Pancho Gonzales but only 9 tournament matches. Joe McCauley determined that for 1952, only 7 professional tournaments were played by the top international players, and 2 other professional tournaments (the British Pro and the German Pro) were reserved for domestic players. Only during the 1960s did professional tournaments become more significant than tours.
Pro Championships (Pro Slams)
In addition to head-to-head events several annual professional tournaments were called championship tournaments. The most prestigious was usually the Wembley Championship, held at the Wembley Arena in England, played between 1934 and 1990. The oldest was the U.S. Pro Tennis Championships, played between 1927 and 1999. Between 1954 and 1962, it was played indoors in Cleveland and was called the World Professional Championships. The third major tournament was the French Pro Championship, played between 1930 and 1968. The British and American championships continued into the Open era but devolved to the status of minor tournaments after the late 1960s.
The Tournament of Champions was held between 1956 and 1959, the 1956 edition taking place in Los Angeles and the 1957, 1958 and 1959 editions taking place at Forest Hills. There was also the Wimbledon Pro tournament held in August 1967, the first tournament where professional tennis players were allowed to play at Wimbledon.
The Open Era began in 1968 when the Grand Slam tournaments agreed to allow professional players to compete with amateurs. Prior to 1968 only amateurs were allowed to compete in the Grand Slam tournaments and other events organized or sanctioned by the ILTF including the Davis Cup. In the open era professionals and amateurs could compete in all open tournaments, although particularly during the first years of the open era, power struggles between the ILTF and the commercial promoters led to boycotts of Grand Slam events. The open era has allowed all tennis players the opportunity to make a living playing tennis. The first open era event was the 1968 British Hard Court Championships held in April at The West Hants Club in Bournemouth, England, while the first open Grand Slam tournament was the 1968 French Open in May. Both tournaments were won by Ken Rosewall.
WCT & NTL
In 1968, a few professionals were independent including Lew Hoad, Mal Anderson, Luis Ayala, and Owen Davidson but most of the best players were under contract. George McCall operated the National Tennis League (NTL) and managed Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Andrés Gimeno, Pancho Gonzales, Fred Stolle and Roy Emerson. Dave Dixon (later succeeded by Lamar Hunt) ran World Championship Tennis (WCT) and managed the Handsome Eight: John Newcombe, Tony Roche, Nikola Pilić, Roger Taylor, Pierre Barthès, Earl "Butch" Buchholz, Cliff Drysdale and Dennis Ralston
In 1968, the original Handsome Eight WCT players were not allowed to participate in the French Open. In 1970, NTL players did not play the Australian Open because their organization did not receive a guarantee. In 1970, neither WCT nor NTL players played in the French Open.
Grand Prix circuit
In the first two years of the Open Era, the NTL and WCT promoters began to control the game. To outmaneuver them, Jack Kramer, the 1940s and 1950s best player (and a promoter), conceived the Grand Prix tennis circuit in late 1969. He described it as:
. . . a series of tournaments with a money bonus pool that would be split up on the basis of a cumulative point system. This would encourage the best players to compete regularly in the series, so that they could share in the bonus at the end and qualify for a special championship tournament that would climax the year.
In 1970, not a single contract player showed up for the French Open. The International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF), alarmed by the control of the promoters, approved Kramer's Grand Prix. Twenty seven tournaments including the three Grand Slams, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open were played that year, with Stockholm tournament ending on 1 November. The independent professionals along with a few contract players entered the Grand Prix circuit. The contract players could play the Grand Prix events if they were allowed and had time apart from their own circuit.
Tour rivalries and the origin of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP)
The first WCT tournaments were held in February 1968 and the first NTL tournaments in March 1969. In spring 1970, the WCT absorbed the NTL. At the end of 1970, a panel of journalists ranked the players, leading the WCT to send invitations to the 32 top men to play the 1971 WCT circuit: among the 32, Ilie Năstase, Stan Smith, Jan Kodeš, Željko Franulović and Clark Graebner stayed independent. In 1971, the WCT ran 20 tournaments and the year-ending WCT Finals. In 1971, the majority of the best players still mainly played the WCT circuit.
The 1971 Australian Open was a WCT competition whereas Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Forest Hills were ILTF Grand Prix events. The conflict between the two groups got so strong in 1971 that Rosewall, Gimeno, Laver, Emerson and some other WCT players boycotted the 1971 US Open, although Newcombe played and lost in the first round to Kodes. Bill Riordan (future manager of Jimmy Connors) complicated matters further with a third professional tour, the U.S. Indoor Circuit.
In 1972, the war between the ILTF and the WCT culminated in the ILTF banning the contract pro players from all ILTF Grand Prix events between January and July, which included the 1972 French Open and 1972 Wimbledon. At the 1972 US Open, all the players attended and agreed to form a player syndicate to protect themselves from the promoters and associations. Thus was born the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) in September 1972.
In 1973, there were four rival pro circuits: the WCT circuit, the Grand Prix circuit, the U.S. Indoor Circuit with Connors and Ilie Năstase and the European Spring Circuit with Năstase as their star. During the year, the ILTF banned Nikola Pilić from 1973 Wimbledon, due to Pilic's alleged refusal to play in Yugoslavia's Davis Cup tie against New Zealand. In retaliation, 81 out of 84 of Pilic's fellow players who were ATP members, boycotted 1973 Wimbledon in response, stating that professional players should have the right of deciding whether to play Davis Cup matches or not. The only ATP players who refused to boycott 1973 Wimbledon were Ilie Năstase, Roger Taylor and Ray Keldie. They were later fined by the ATP for their participation in the tournament.
In 1978 the Grand Prix and WCT circuits merged. In 1982, the WCT circuit broke away (and created a more complex WCT ranking, similar to the ATP ranking.) The WCT wasn't as successful in the 1980s, leaving the Grand Prix circuit as the main circuit. The Grand Prix's governance was led by the Men's International Professional Tennis Council (MIPTC), later renamed to Men's Tennis Council (MTC). The WCT Finals in Dallas continued being held until the end of the 1980s, and then disbanded with the creation of the ATP Tour for 1990.
The Open Era, the global professional circuit, and television helped tennis spread globally and shed its aristocratic, anglosphere image. In America, courts are a common feature of public recreational facilities. Accordingly, in the 1970s the U.S. Open moved from the posh West Side Tennis Club to a public park (the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows Park) that is accessible to anyone who buys a ticket. About the same time, the ruling body's name changed from the United States Lawn Tennis Association to the United States Tennis Association.
In 1990, the Association of Tennis Professionals, led by Hamilton Jordan, replaced the MTC as the governing body of men's professional tennis, and the ATP Tour was born. The ATP Tour began in 1990, packaging the nine most prestigious events as Super Nine, abandoning the 'Grand Prix' label. Twelve of the more prestigious Grand Prix events later were labeled International Series Gold while the remaining (approximately 60) became known as the International Series. The format continued from the 1998 season to the present, although slightly reorganized in 2009. The Super Nine became the Masters Series, occupying the rank below the Grand Slams. In 2000, the Grand Slam tournaments and the Masters Series tournaments became the only mandatory professional events. Players were automatically entered and Masters and Slam events became the baseline for player rankings.
In 2009, the Masters events were renamed the ATP World Tour Masters 1000. The Monte Carlo Masters, although retaining its Masters status, uniquely dropped the mandatory commitment. International Series Gold became the ATP World Tour 500, and the remaining events became the ATP World Tour 250. The numbers indicate the winners' ranking points. The Davis Cup also began to award ATP ranking points.
Women's professional tennis
Women's professional tennis began in 1926 when world number one Suzanne Lenglen accepted $50,000 for a series of matches against three time US Champion Mary K. Browne. This ended in 1927 and women didn't again compete at the professional level until 1941 when Alice Marble headlined a tour against Mary Hardwick. World War II hindered most pro competitions and many players were involved with entertaining the troops. In 1947 women pros were again in action with a short-lived series of exhibition matches between Pauline Betz and Sarah Palfrey Cooke, both U.S. National Champions. In 1950–51, Bobby Riggs signed Betz and Gussie Moran to play a pro tour with Jack Kramer and Pancho Segura, (Betz dominated Moran.) Althea Gibson turned pro in 1958 and joined with Karol Fageros ("the Golden Goddess") as the opening act for the Harlem Globetrotters for one season. There was virtually no further women's professional tennis until 1967 when promoter George McCall signed Billie Jean King, Ann Jones, Françoise Dürr, and Rosie Casals to join his tour of eight men for two years. The pro women then played as independents as the Open Era began.
In 1970, promoter for the Pacific Southwest Championships in Los Angeles Jack Kramer offered the women only $7,500 in prize money versus the men's total of $50,000. When Kramer refused to match the men's prize money, King and Casals urged a boycott. Gladys Heldman, American publisher of World Tennis magazine, responded with a separate women's tour under the sponsorship of Virginia Slims cigarettes. In 1971–72 the WT Women's Pro Tour offered nearly ten times the prize money of other pro women's tennis events. The tour alienated the USLTA, which initially would not sanction the tour. Giving Virginia Slims the individual events and the USLTA the tour resolved the conflict. In 1973, the U.S. Open made history by offering equal prize money to men and women. Billie Jean King, the most visible advocate for the women's cause, earned over $100,000 in 1971 and 1972. In the famous Battle of the Sexes exhibition match against crafty Bobby Riggs in September 1973, King brought even more media attention to tennis, and to women professionals in all walks of life.
The Women's Tennis Association, formed in 1973, is the principal organizing body of women's professional tennis. It organizes the WTA Tour, the worldwide professional tennis tour. Sponsors included Virginia Slims (1971–78), Avon (1979–82), Virginia Slims again (1983–94), J.P. Morgan Chase (1996–2000), Sanex (2001) Home Depot (2002), and Sony Ericsson (2006).
From 1984–98, the finals matches of the championship event were best-of-five, uniquely among women's tournaments. In 1999, the finals reverted to best-of-three. The WTA Tour Championships are generally considered to be the women's fifth most prestigious event (after the four Grand Slam tournaments.)
Hall of Fame
In 1954, James Van Alen founded the International Tennis Hall of Fame, a non-profit museum in Newport, Rhode Island. The building contains a large collection of memorabilia as well as honoring prominent players and others. Each year, a grass-court tournament takes place on its grounds, as well as an induction ceremony honoring new members.
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