As dedicated fans of the sport of tennis, Amir Landsman and his family enjoy spending time on the court practicing and playing against each other for fun. Most players don’t stop to consider the ancient history of tennis, a game that’s been played for hundreds of years.
Tennis has a relatively lengthy history and is thought to have originated in France in the 12th century as an offshoot of a game known as “jeu de paume,” a phrase that literally translates as “game of palm.” Jeu de paume was played without rackets; instead, the palm of the hand was used to strike the ball from one player to another. The French king Louis X was very fond of jeu de paume. However, he disliked playing outdoors and had indoor courts constructed to accommodate his play of the game.
A Clever Racket
The rackets used in modern tennis were not introduced until the 16th century and gained widespread popularity in England and France. The game played during this period more closely resembled racquetball and was played indoors by hitting the ball in turns against a court wall. Lawn tennis became popular after the invention of the manual push mower in England in 1830.
Historians believe that the first iteration of modern tennis was played sometime in the 1850s or 1860s in England, although accounts disagree on the identity of the original inventors. Most experts agree on the important role played by Walter Clopton Wingfield, a major in the British army. Wingfield is credited with popularizing tennis by creating a boxed set of equipment complete with rules for the game he invented. The first Wimbledon Championships took place in London in 1877 and further raised the profile of this emerging sport.
Tennis Comes to America
As tennis spread throughout Europe and to European holdings in the Caribbean, it gained devoted followers and became a popular form of exercise and entertainment for military members and clergy around the globe. It was not until 1874, however, that the modern form of tennis made its way to the United States through the efforts of Mary Ewing Outerbridge, who was introduced to the game during a visit to Bermuda. She returned with a set of equipment and set up a court at the Staten Island Cricket Club. The game quickly captured the imagination of New York sports enthusiasts, and the court designed by Outerbridge played host to the first American National Championships held in 1880.
Tennis rules have undergone many changes over the years. Most of the regulations governing modern tennis play in the United States were established in 1881 by the National Lawn Tennis Association, which is now known as the U.S. Tennis Association. The U.S. Open is an annual competition reserved for professional tennis players at the top of the sport. Major international competitions include the Davis Cup, the French Open, Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Although they may never compete at these elevated levels, avid tennis fans like Amir Landsman enjoy casual and competitive games on the many tennis courts available throughout the world.