Though there were forms of tennis played in France as early as the 12th century, tennis as we know it today did not originate until the 16th century. Prior to then, rackets were not used and the game was not called tennis. Originally, tennis was played indoors and the ball was hit off of the wall. This is similar to the modern game of racquetball. The game was popular in England and France, especially among royalty. As a matter of fact, it is well documented that Henry VIII was a big fan of tennis.
The world’s first tennis club opened at the Leamington Spa in 1872. The following year, a game called sticky was developed, which many believe lent several of its rules to today’s modern game of tennis. The first championship game of tennis was played at Wimbledon in 1877. There was much debate surrounding this event because rules has not yet been stardardized.
Tennis in America
In 1874, American Mary Ewing Outerbridge played tennis on vacation and returned to the state with information about the game. She had a tennis
court built at the Staten Island Cricket Club in New York, bringing the game of tennis to America for the first time. This was the location of the first American National tournament in 1880. The tournament included both doubles and singles matches.
The United States National Lawn Tennis Association formed in 1881 standardizing the rules from club to club. This is now the United States Tennis Association. The first US Open was held in 1881 in Newport, Rhode Island and the first U.S. National Women’s Singles Championships were held six years later in 1887.
America was not the only country advancing tennis and hosting tournaments on a national level. Tennis still enjoyed a great deal of popularity in France and the first French Open was held in 1891. This tournament, along with the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, and the Australian Open, make up the Majors in tennis competition.
The rules of tennis, once standardized, have remained virtually the same since the International Tennis Federation created them in 1924. At the time, the organization was known as the International Lawn Tennis Federation, and the only major change that has occurred is the institution of a tie-breaking system.
Tennis in the Olympics
Tennis is an Olympic sport, but was withdrawn from the 1924 games and did not return until 60 years later. Tennis faced a bit of controversy during its hiatus from the Olympics. Originally, players who became pros were not permitted to compete in the major tournaments. Unfortunately, rumors were rampant that amateurs were accepting money while on the circuit. To solve the problem, tennis instituted an open era, allowing all players to compete in all tournaments. This enabled the best players in the world to earn a living from playing the game, just like in other professional sports. This also made it possible for tennis to reach a larger audience. The sport could be commercialized and tennis stars could be promoted in much the same way as other professional athletes.