Tennis is one of the high profile games played in the present times. The origin of tennis dates thousand of years back. The game is supposed to have been played in ancient Egypt and Persia for the first time. However, there are varying opinions on the same. Some are of the belief that the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans played a precursor to tennis. There are various pictures depicting a type of game, wherein a ball was stroked over a net. It is believed that the name ‘tennis’ is derived from the Egyptian town of Tinnis, on the bank of river Nile.
As for the word ‘racquet,’ it evolved from ‘rahat’, the Arabic word used to describe the palm of the hand. As the record for the next 1000 years is lacking, quite a number of people are of the view that tennis originated in France, as French monks began playing a crude handball against their monastery walls or over a rope strung across a courtyard. This game was given the name ‘jeu de paume’, meaning "game of the hand." Some even argue that tennis is derived from the French ‘tenez.’ The game soon became popular amongst the royal family and came to be known as royal or ‘real tennis’.
However, the history of modern tennis officially began in 19th century, in Britain, with a man named Major Walter Wingfield. He gave the name ‘sphairistike’ to the sport, which is a Greek word meaning ‘ball game.’ He even thought of getting a patent for the game in 1870s. He based the game much on the real tennis, borrowing the name as well as the French vocabulary for the same. The first tennis court emerged in United States. After this, the game soon spread across different parts of the world, like Russia, China, India, etc.
The initial courts used for the game were small and hourglass in shape. The first open lawn tennis event was held in August 1881, at Newport Casino in Newport Rhode Island. It was a men’s singles tournament and was called the US National Singles Championship for men. In the year 1900, the US Nation Men’s Double Championship was played for the first time. However, the first official US Women’s National Singles Championship was played at the Philadelphia Cricket Club 1887. Soon after this, US Women’s National Doubles Championship was organized, in the year 1889.
With this, the sport became extremely popular. As a result, the International Lawn Tennis Federation (now ITF) was formed in 1912, with 13 member countries. The first Davis Cup competition was played in 1900, between a team of Americans and a Team of British tennis stars. Tennis was also a part of the first Olympic Games, held in Greece, in 1896. Women first played in the Olympics in the year 1900. In 1924, tennis was withdrawn from the Olympic Games, as it claimed a lack of professionalism in the organization and the Olympics’ desire to not schedule Wimbledon in an Olympic year.
In the year 1968, ‘open era’ was declared, as per which players could play in all tournaments. This gave the sport its present day state. In 1970, the US Open became the first tennis tournament to introduce the tie-breaker system. In 1973, computer ranking of the players was established. In 1988, tennis made an entry back into the Olympic Games. In 1994, tennis was played on the grass in indoor conditions, for the first time. In 2005, ATP introduced a different scoring system for doubles matches. From its inception to the game played today, Tennis has been developed to great degrees and amassed huge popularity!