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History of Tennis The very first recorded mention of tennis was in the fourteenth Cycle of plays known as the ‘The Second Shepherd’s Play’ from the Wakefield Yorkshire playwright known simply as The Wakefield Master. In scene VIII Sir Gawain, a knight of King Arthur’s round table plays tennis with a group of giants. However this would have been the medieval form of tennis known as real tennis which had evolved over three centuries from an earlier ball game played in France around the 12th century. This involved hitting the ball with the bare hand or later a glove and is believed to have started with monks playing the game in monastery cloisters, based upon the construction and appearance of some of the early courts. The game quickly proved a hit among European royals and in England was taken up by Henry V in the early fifteenth century. A hundred years later Henry VIII made the biggest impact as a young monarch, playing the game with gusto at Hampton Court on a court he built in 1530. 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.. In England, during the 18th century and early 19th century as real tennis died out, three other racquet sports emerged: racquets, squash racquets, and lawn tennis (the modern game). 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 Spaand in 1874, with two doctors from the Warneford Hospital, founded the world's first tennis club. In December 1873, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield devised a similar game for the amusement of his guests at a garden party on his estate of Nantclwyd in Llanelidan, Wales. He based the game on the older real tennis. At the suggestion of Arthur Balfour, Wingfield named it "lawn tennis, and patented the game in 1874 with an eight-page rule book titled "Sphairistike or Lawn Ten-nis", but he failed to succeed in enforcing his patent. Tennis was first played in the U.S. at the home of Mary Ewing Outerbridge on Staten Island, New York in 1874. In 1881, the desire to play tennis competitively led to the establishment of tennis clubs, which led to the four Grand Slams, which are regarded as the most prestigious events on the tennis circuit. Wimbledon, the USOpen, the French Open, and the Australian Open became and have remained the most prestigious events in tennis. Both the name and much of the French vocabulary of tennis are borrowed from real tennis: •

Tennis comes from the French tenez, the imperative form of the verb tenir , to hold: This was a

cry used by the player serving in royal tennis, meaning "I am about to serve!" (rather like the cry "Fore!" in golf).


Racquet comes from raquette, which 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). •

Love is widely believed to come from "l'oeuf", the French word for "egg", representing the

shape of a zero. •

The convention of numbering scores "15", "30" and "40" comes from quinze, trente and quarante, which to French ears makes a euphonious sequence, or from the quarters of a clock (15, 30, 45) with 45 simplified to 40.

The History of Tennis  

Do you know where tennis started?

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