Monday, April 02, 2018

Tennis History

The history of tennis has a long story. Tennis evolved from real tennis or royal tennis. Royal tennis continues to be played today in a completely different style of rules as compared to modern day tennis. The Middle Ages mentioned tennis. There is the Second Shepherds’ Play from ca. 1500. It is literature about shepherds giving three gifts, including a tennis ball, to the newborn Christ. From the literature of “The Turke and Gowin” from ca. 1500, it shows a story of Sir Gawain, or the knight of King Arthur’s round table, playing tennis against a group of 17 giants. Real tennis came about during the Middle Ages. It evolved from an earlier ball game played around the 12th century in France. Back in France, that game involved hitting a ball with a bare hand and later with a globe. During the 16th century, the glove had become a racquet. The game moved into an enclosed playing area. Rules became stabilized. Royalty played real tennis throughout Europe. It reached its peak in the 16th century. King James I Scotland was killed involving a unique situation. In 1437 at the Blackfriars, Perth, something happened. The drain outlet was blocked to prevent the loss of tennis balls. King James I wanted to escape assassins. James was later trapped and killed. Real tennis has been played by and was supported by Francis I of France (1515-1547). He built courts and promoted play among courtiers and commoners. Henry II was his successor. Henry II was another great player and continued the royal French tradition. An Italian priest wrote a 1555 book about tennis called, Trattao del Giuocco della Palla. His name was Antonio Sciano da Salothe. Two French kings died from tennis related situations. Their names are 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 by 1571. It formed a first pro tennis tour. There were 3 professional levels called apprentice, associate, and master. Forbet was a professional who wrote and published the first codification of the rules in 1599. 

Royal tennis has been written about by William Shakespeare too. He wrote about “tennis balles’ in his work called Henry V from 1599. There were other authors who wrote about tennis too. Royal tennis thrived among 17th century nobility in France, Spain, Italy, and in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Yet, English Purtianism rejected it. By the Age of Napoleon, the royal families of Europe were besieged with war and conflict. So, real tennis was totally abandoned for the most part. Real tennis had a minor role in the history of the French Revolution via the Tennis Court Oath. This pledge was signed by French deputies on a real tennis court. This was influential in starting the French Revolution. In England, by the 18th and early 19th centuries, real tennis declined. Three other racquet sports were developed like racquets, squash racquets, and lawn tennis (which evolved into the modern game of tennis). Modern tennis was tied to 2 separate inventions. From 1859 and 1865, Major Harry Gem (from Birmingham, England), who was a solicitor and friend of Augurio Perera (a Spanish merchant) did something. Gem merged the elements of the game of rackets and the Spanish ball game pelota and played it on a croquet lawn in Edgbaston. By 1872, both men moved into Leamington Sap and in 1874, with 2 doctors form Warneford Hospital, founded the world’s first tennis club. It was called the Leamington Tennis Club. The game of Spharistike was created by Major Wingerfield in the UK. On December 1873, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield created and patented an hourglass-shaped tennis court in order to obtain a patent on his court. The court was a rectangular court, already in use in other versions of outdoor tennis. Also, lawn tennis was unpatentable by him. A temporary patent on his hourglass-shaped court was granted to him in February of 1874, which he never renewed when it expired in 1877. It is commonly believed, mistakenly, that Wingfield obtained a patent on the game he devised to be played on that type of court, but in fact Wingfield never applied for nor received a patent on his game, although he did obtain a copyright — but not a patent — on his rules for playing it. There was a running series of articles and letters in the British sporting magazine called The Field. A meeting at London’s Marylebone Cricket Club existed. Afterwards, the official rules of lawn tennis were created by the Club in 1875. The rules were different than what Wingfield dreamed of.

The rules from the Marylebone Cricket Club added deuce, Advantage, and two chances per serve. Wingfield claimed that he had invented his version of the game for the amusement of his guests at a weekend garden party on his estate of Nantclwyd, in Llanelidan, Wales in 1874, but research has demonstrated that even his game was not likely played during that country weekend in Wales. He had likely based his game on both the evolving sport of outdoor tennis and on real tennis. Much of modern tennis terminology also derives from this period, as Wingfield and others borrowed both the name and much of the French vocabulary of real tennis and applied them to their variations of real tennis. Wingfield patented his hourglass court.  In his version, the game was played on an hourglass shaped court and the net was higher (4 feet 8 inches) than it is in the official lawn tennis. The service had to be made from a diamond-shaped box in the middle of one side of the court 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'). None of these quirks survived the Marylebone Cricket Club's 1875 Rules of Lawn Tennis that have been official, with periodic slight modifications, ever since then. Those rules were adopted by the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for the first Lawn Tennis Championship, at Wimbledon in 1877 (the men who devised those rules were members of both clubs). Wingfield does deserve great credit for popularizing the game of lawn tennis, as he marketed, in one boxed set, all the equipment needed to play his or other versions of it, equipment that had been available previously only at several different outlets. This caused convenience. Versions of the game spread in Britain. By 1875, lawn tennis supplanted croquet and badminton as the most popular outdoor games for both men and women. Mary Ewing Outerbridge played lawn tennis in Bermuda at Clermont. It was a house with a large lawn in Paget parish. Many histories claim that Mary introduced tennis to the United States in 1874. Many said that she set the first tennis court in America on the grounds of the Staten Island Cricket and Baseball Club. This is near where the Staten Island Ferry Terminal is today. The club was founded on or about March 22, 1872. She is also mistakenly said to have played the first tennis game in the US against her sister Laura in Staten Island, New York, on an hourglass-shaped court. However, all this would have been impossible, as the tennis equipment she is said to have brought back from Bermuda was not available in Bermuda until 1875, and her next trip to Bermuda, when it was available there, was in 1877.  In fact, lawn tennis was first introduced in the United States on a grass court on Col. William Appleton's Estate in Nahant, Massachusetts by Dr. James Dwight ("the Father of American Lawn Tennis"), Henry Slocum, Richard Dudley Sears and Sears' half-brother Fred Sears in 1874. In 1881, the United States National Lawn Tennis Association (USNLTA) was founded and the first U.S. Championships were played (though only for American citizens until 1885). 

By the late 19th century and early 20th century, we saw the pre-open era of tennis. The four majors or the Grand Slam tournaments existed. They are the four biggest competitions in the tennis world today. They are Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the French Open, and the Australian Open. They have been heavily popular since the mid 1920’s. A Grand slam win refers to a tennis player winning all four of these tournaments in the same year. Wimbledon was created in 1877 by the All England Club. It raised money. The first Championships were done by 22 men. The winner received the Silver Gilt Cup. Women had their own championship called the Ladies Singles and then the Gentlemen’s Doubles Championships were formed in 1884. Wimbledon championships are open to women for the first time by 1884. The Ladies and Mixed Doubles came about in 1913. Tennis was played in America by 1874. It spread into New York and Boston. The U.S. Open was first held in Newport, Rhode Island on 1881. The U.S. National Women’s Singles Championships were held in 1887 in Philadelphia. It became part of the major Tennis tournaments by 1924 by the ILTF during 1924. Wimbledon was televised by 1937 which was the first tennis tournament to have done so. The French Open existed by 1891 as the Championat de France International de Tennis. This tournament was not recognized as a Major or Grand Slam tournament until it was opened to all nationalities in 1925. Tennis was always popular in France.  The modern Olympics included tennis for the first time in 1896. The Australian Open was first played in 1905. It gained more popularity by the 1980’s. Its tournament has been held in Melbourne Park since 1988. There is the Davis Cup too. The International Lawn Tennis Federation was created in 1913 at a Paris conference.

It is now the International Tennis Federation since 1977. Professional tours existed by the early 20th century. There was the Wembley Championship held in Wembley Arena in England. It was played from 1934 to 1990. During the 1920’s, Suzanne Lenglen was one of the greatest tennis players of her generation. She was from France. On 1933, Bunny Austin wore modern day tennis fashion. On January 1, 1950, Jack Cramer created by the modern Pro Tour. It was popular to the public and amateur players. Maureen Connolly was the first woman to win all 4 Grand Slam tournaments in a single year by January 1, 1953. During the 1950’s, more African Americans like Althea Gibson was involved in breaking down the color barrier in tennis. She was the first black women to win Wimbledon.  In 1956, she became the first black human being to win a Grand Slam title (the French Open). The following year she won both Wimbledon and the U.S. Nationals (precursor of the U.S. Open), then won both again in 1958, and was voted Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in both years. In all, she won 11 Grand Slam tournaments, including six doubles titles, and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame. "She is one of the greatest players who ever lived," said Robert Ryland, a tennis contemporary and former coach of Venus and Serena Williams. The Open era started from 1968 to the present. This was when the Grand Slam tournaments agreed to allow professional players to compete with amateurs. Before 1968, only amateurs were allowed to compete in Grand Slam tournaments and other events organized or sanctioned by the ILTF, including Davis Cup.

By Timothy

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