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[ Store Home > Tennis Racquets > Helpfull Tips, Links > History Of Tennis ]

History Of Tennis

Tennis of one kind or another was played in France as far back as the twelfth century. It was not until the late nineteenth century that the game, in a somewhat different form, began to take on popularity in Britain with the advent of lawn tennis. Major Walter Clopton Wingfield, in search of a more vigorous game than croquet for the leisure classes, devised an activity that was a hybrid of badminton and court tennis (which had existed for centuries). He called it Sphairistike, Greek for ball games. Wingfield patented his game in 1874 and a kit was made available for sale. People took to the new game, but soon realized they didn't need Major Wingfield's kits. Wingfield let his patent run out in 1877 and in that year the All England Club held a tournament. Eventually the game was modified from the prescriptions laid out by Major Wingfield. For instance, Wingfield's rules called for the game to be played on a court the shape of an hourglass. Soon it was played on a rectangular plain. There have also been changes in the quality and type of equipment and clothing used. Early this century short pants were a radical idea. During the past few decades players have gradually replaced wooden and metal rackets with rackets made of graphite and other compounds. After 1984, when John McEnroe and Pat Cash wielded wooden rackets in the semifinals of the U.S. Open, wooden rackets quickly became an anachronism, to the lament of some purists.

Since World War II tennis has generally become more egalitarian than it once was. In Australia by the 1930s tennis became that nation's most popular recreational sport and Australia went on to dominate tennis like no nation ever has, or most likely ever will. Following the 1950s and 1960s, the heyday of Australian mastery over the rest of the world, major tournaments that had once been open only to amateurs, in 1968 (beginning with Wimbledon) welcomed those players who had turned professional, ushering in the Open Era. This event had been anticipated since the early sixties, and the end of what has been dubbed "shamateurism" further fueled the tennis boom which had already begun by the 1960s.


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