The History Of Tennis – How Tennis Became The Sport It Is Today

Tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world today. Around 90 million people around the world play the sport. The TV audience for tennis is in the hundreds of millions.

Let’s take a look at how the game of tennis started and how it has evolved over the years.

12th century  – A game called jeu de paume (“game of the palm”) was played in Northern France. The game involved striking the ball with the hand.

16th century – The name “tennis” became associated with the game. Racquets were used for the first time. Racquet derives its name from the Arabic word,  rakhat, which means palm of the hand

1830 – The lawnmower was invented. It was a big catalyst for the growth of tennis because it made preparing lawn courts for tennis easy

1870 – All England Croquet Club was established at Wimbledon.

1874 – First tennis racquet was made by Major Walter C. Wingfield in London.  The racquet was made of solid wood.

1877 – First World Tennis Championships were held at Wimbledon. Only 22 players entered the tournament. Spencer Gore won the tournament.

1881– First US Open championships held at Newport, Rhode Island. Entry was restricted to US residents. Dick Sears won the first US Open title.

1884 – Wimbledon Championships feature women and doubles for the first time.

1887 – US Open features women for the first time. Lottie Dod is the first female US Open champion.

1891 – First French Championships held. The tournament was open only to French residents.

1896 – Tennis was included in the Olympics for the first time.

1897 – French Championships are open to women for the first time.

1900– Harvard student, Dwight F.Davis, developed a structure for a new international competition along with three others. The competition was called  International Lawn Tennis Challenge. It was later renamed the Davis Cup in his honor.

1905 – First Australasian National Championships held (later renamed Australian Open). The tournament alternated between Australia and New Zealand.

1912 – International Lawn Tennis Federation formed (ITLF).  It was formed to operate the four big tournaments in tennis – Australasian Championships, French Championships, Wimbledon Championships, and the US Open). In 1977, it became ITF.

1922 – Australasian championships are open to women for the first time

1924 – Tennis dropped from the Olympics

1925 – French Championships allows residents of other countries to participate. Australasian Championships held only in Australia (no longer alternating between Australia and New Zealand)

1927 – Roland Garros stadium built. Named after World War I hero. Wimbledon introduced seeding for players.

1938 – Don Budge wins the “Grand Slam” – winning the four major tennis championships.  The term “Grand Slam” comes from the card game bridge.

1950 –  Jack Kramer creates pro tour for tennis players

1953 – Maureen Connelly becomes the first woman to win a grand slam (all 4 majors)

1960 – Idea to merge professional and amateur tennis defeated at the ITLF annual meeting.

1967 – Wilson introduces the first metal tennis racquet.

1968 – Start of the Open era.  First Open tournament held at Bournemouth.

1969 – Rod Laver wins the Grand Slam ( 4 majors), first in the Open era. He won the Grand Slam in 1962 as an amateur.

1970 – Tie-breaks introduced. Winner in the tie-break is the first person to get to 5 points.

1972– Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) formed.

1976– Graphite and fibre glass racquets introduced

1977 – US Open moved from Forest Hills to Flushing Meadows, NY

1984– Tennis included in the Olympics again

1985– Boris Becker becomes the youngest Wimbledon champion at 17 years and 227 days

1988 – Australian Open moves to Flinders Park (Melbourne Park). Steffi Graf wins Golden Grand Slam (all 4 grand slams + Olympic gold)

1990 – Martina Navratilova wins record 9th singles title

2001 -Goran Ivanisevic becomes first wild card to win Wimbledon title

2005 – New doubles scoring system introduced. No advantage points after Deuce. Tie-break (first to ten points) instead of a third and deciding set.

2017 – Federer wins record 8th Wimbledon title (his 19th grand slam)

2018 – Federer wins 6th Australian Open title and 20th grand slam

2020 – Rafael Nadal wins record 13th French Open and 20th grand slam

2021 -Novak Djokovic wins sixth Wimbledon title and 20th grand slam

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