Tennis is a racket sport, can be played alone (singles) or between two teams of two players each (doubles). Each player hits a hollow rubber ball wrapped in felt over or over a net and into the opponent’s court with a tennis racquet connected with string. The goal is to manoeuvre the ball in a rather way that the opponent is unable to return it.
Perhaps no other sport has progressed the transformations that tennis has done in the previous 30-40 years. If someone transported himself from the 1970s to the present day, they would witness a sport that follows the same regulations like the one they are familiar with, but the gameplay would be radically different.
Tennis: An Overview
Tennis evolved throughout a millennium to become the game we know today. Although there is evidence that early versions of tennis indeed got to play in Egypt, Greece, and Rome, most historians assume that the sport began about the year 1000 in French monasteries.
The monks played a game called the je de paume, or hand game, in which they struck a wooden ball across a rope hung across the courtyard with their hands. While this may seem similar to volleyball, historians think the name “tennis” gets derived from the French term tenez, which means ‘take this!’ The monks would exclaim ‘tenez’ when they served the ball throughout the game.
According to a historical study, courtyard playing grounds get converted into indoor courts. The progression of tennis towards racquets might get traced back to when players started using gloves because playing with their bare hands was too unpleasant before upgrading to a glove with webbing sewed between the fingers.
A solid paddle was created but ended with webbing linked to a handle, resulting in an early version of the current racquet. It would be years before rubber balls’ invention; tennis balls got made of hair, wool, or even cork wrapped in the thread at the time.
It is now known- first played on small, indoor courts with a drooping net. The ball bounced off the walls, and the players won points by striking it into gaps behind their opponent’s back. Despite its enormous popularity in previous ages, the game had all but died out by the 1700s.
However, in 1850, a new invention would give the sport new fresh life. Charles Goodyear invented a technique that improved the durability of natural rubber, making it more suitable for everyday use. This achievement paved the way for the development of bouncy balls that could get utilised on grass.
In 1874, Walter Clopton Wingfield devised the rules, balls, and racquets for sphairistike, the Greek word for “playing ball,” an outdoor version of tennis.
Wingfield’s court shape was like an hourglass and, his regulations widely vilified, yet he had established the foundation for contemporary tennis. Courts appeared in the United States the same year, and by the upcoming year, the game had expanded to Russia, India, and Canada.
The All England Croquet Club dedicated one of its lawns at Wimbledon to tennis. It quickly became so popular that the club changed its name to the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, a watershed moment in tennis history.
The club decided to establish a tennis competition in 1877, and a three-person championship panel gets formed. It chose a rectangular court with dimensions 78 feet (23.8 metres) long by 27 feet (8.2 metres) wide. They used the actual tennis scoring system (15, 30, 40, game) and gave the server one fault.
These main choices, still ingrained in today’s rules. Spencer Gore was the inaugural winner of the Wimbledon Championships, out of twenty-two participants. The Scottish Championships were held in 1878, followed by the Irish Championships in 1879.
By 1880, tennis had established itself in Australia, and the inaugural Australian Championships held in 1905. New Zealand’s inaugural national championships held in 1886. The Lawn Tennis Association of Australasia (later Australia) got established in 1904.
The inaugural French Championships get held in 1891 at the Stade Francais, were an interclub event that did not become fully international until 1925, when the French Federation of Lawn Tennis found.
Other national championships get established in 1890 in Canada, 1891 in South Africa, 1910 in Spain, 1921 in Denmark, 1925 in Egypt, 1930 in Italy, and 1930 in Sweden (1936). Wimbledon inaugurated a women’s tournament in 1884, while women’s national championships began in the United States in 1887.
During this era, the numerous courts influenced the tempo of play, with fast grass courts, medium-hard courses, and slow clay courts being the most common. It has said in the mid-1990s that Wimbledon tried to slow down the grass to encourage longer rallies.
Attacking players like Pete Sampras and Boris Becker began to take over the major tournaments. The baseliners dominated the French Open because the balls used back then were fabled heavier than those used now.
Power players began to impose their influence as the new century approached. Consider the Williams sisters’ influence on the women’s game. A large portion of this was due to advancements in racquet technology has arisen during this period. However, some of the era’s best players, like Sampras, favoured the power that only a heavier racquet could provide.
The advancement of modern sports science influences professional tennis, and today’s professionals are fitter, healthier, and more robust than ever before. The average age of today’s tennis players reflects this, with Roger Federer playing into his late thirties.
Tennis players get judged on their speed, strength, endurance, and recovery time. Previously, players were more concerned with technical qualities and spent hours honing their strokes. Players at the highest levels understand the importance of being nimble both side-to-side and laterally.
A vast crew of coaches, strength and endurance trainers, nutritionists, and even a sports psychologist is not uncommon for an elite tennis player to travel with these days.