Tennis is a sport enjoyed by people of all ages around the world with varying degrees of athleticism. Some people enjoy leisurely hitting the ball back and forth over the net, while some people earn their living playing professional tennis. The exact origins of the sport of tennis aren’t exactly noted, however some historians believe it dates back to Ancient Egypt, while others believe it originated in northern France in some monastic cloisters in the 12th century. No matter what area or century the original game was founded, it appears all agree that the original game of tennis was played without rackets, but using a ball struck with the palm of a bare hand, much like modern-day handball.
In the 16th century rackets became a more popular tool for hitting the ball, and the game’s name was changed from “jeu de paume” (game of the palm) to “lawn tennis,” or “real tennis.” Europe’s aristocracies soon took notice of the sport and grew it in popularity especially in France and England. This made the sport become more regulated with rules and equipment becoming unified.
As the rulers of Europe became enthralled with the sport of tennis, they built many tennis courts and promoted the sport among a wide cross-section of their people. In the 1500s in England a famous tennis court was built at the Royal Palace of Hampton Court, and it is still used for modern competitions.
By the 1890s the rules and scoring system we use for tennis today were largely in place. The only major rule change since then was the adoption of a tie-break rule in the 1970s.
The four grand slam tournament events were all established long ago. Wimbledon began in 1877, the U.S. Open in 1881, the French Open in 1891 and the Australian Open in 1905.
Before the late 1920s all tennis players were considered amateur, but around that time star players began to make a living from their talents. In 1927 the first U.S. Professional Championship was held, however tennis players who were considered “professional” were not allowed to participate in the four grand slam tournaments until 1968, thus beginning the modern “Open” era.
Prior to pros participating in these tournaments, they would earn their money by winning establishing their talent in the grand slam tournaments, then turn pro so they could tour the world to play in professional-only tournaments and lucrative exhibition matches.
Once the professional era began, prize money, corporate sponsorship and television revenues have made many professionals quite wealthy based on their talents, number of wins and general likeability (or un-likeability in some cases).
The transition from amateur tennis to professional tennis was not an easy one. Both the male and female players formed their own associations.
Once tennis matches were televised on a regular basis, flamboyant players with big personalities started getting attention for more than just their tennis skills. Although they were great for the spectators to watch, some players got in big trouble with their actions and trash talking.
Although the sport of tennis has evolved quite a bit over the centuries, the same basic principles are in place that have been for quite a long time. The staying-power of this sport is a testament to the fact that anyone can enjoy the sport at whatever level they are comfortable with.