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THE EVOLUTION OF TENNIS


                                                                                                                                      In France, Francois I and Henry II constructed courts in   He developed a system so that the sport was movable,
                                                                                                                                   their own palaces, and Henry himself was such a confident   whose equipment included balls, racquets, a net and a rule
            THE EVOLUTION                                                                                                          associated with royalty and therefore developed the   played on an hourglass-shaped grass space.
                                                                                                                                                                                    book. The courts were determined to be outdoors and
                                                                                                                                   player that he would invite large crowds to witness him play.
                                                                                                                                      It was perhaps in this period that tennis became most
                                                                                                                                                                                      The game took off, and was shortened to “Sticky”. It was
                                                                                                                                   code of conduct that marks it out still today as highly
                                                                                                                                                                                    a global sensation, and soon croquet clubs were making
                                                                                                                                                                                    space for the matches. In 1877, the All England Croquet
                                                                                                                                   rigid and mannered.
                                                                                                                                      Tennis continued to be popular, though its fortunes
                                                                                                                                                                                    style, though because of practical reasons, the court was
                                                                                                                                   rose and fell with fashions. In France, the Revolution put   Club decided to host a tennis tournament in Wingfield’s
                                                                                                                                   a hard line under it and the game all but disappeared as   measured out as a rectangle. And so Wimbledon was born.
                                                                                                                                                                                      One of the reasons for the enduring popularity of the
                                                                                                                                   heads started to roll. Connected so completely with the
            OF TENNIS                                                                                                              aristocracy and the monarchy, it became associated with   sport is how it allowed women to play from comparatively
                                                                                                                                   the frivolous waste that was so at odds with the republican
                                                                                                                                                                                    early. The first Wimbledon ladies’ singles was held in 1884,
                                                                                                                                                                                    though the Irish had beaten them to that honour five
                                                                                                                                   spirit of the time. It was highly symbolic that the Revolution
                                                                                                                                   itself was announced at the Royal Tennis Court at Versailles,
                                                                                                                                                                                    years prior. Right from the start, mixed doubles was the
                                                                                                                                   becoming known as Le Serment du Jeu de Paume.
                                                                                                                                                                                    petticoats and corsets. Lottie Dod, the earliest female
                                                                                                                                      Tennis had become political, and with the     norm, though women were still expected to play wearing
                                                                                                                                   re-establishment of the monarchy, it was given a fresh   star said “blessings would be heaped upon anyone who
                                                                                                                                   start. But it was across the channel that would see tennis   could invent a practical, comfortable and withal becoming
                                                                                                                                   move into the modern age.                        costume”, evidently after chasing a ball for hours in the
                  f  we could go back in time and visit a 13th   archery, men were wasting their leisure time hitting a ball.         Some of the kings had moved tennis outdoors in order   summer sun.
                  century French monastery, we might be        Soon after, it was banned in France because fathers were            to make better use of their gardens. But with the invention   Eventually, fashion and tennis would become entwined,
                  surprised by the sound of running feet and the   neglecting their families.                                      of vulcanized rubber, tennis players suddenly had a ball   and would move from a hobby of the wealthy to a more
              Ithwack of a ball.                                 By the 14th century, the game had come to be known as             that could ping further and faster than ever before. Major   egalitarian sport. Though without its rich history, it would
               We can assume that there would occasionally come   jeu de paume (this being French for “palm”) and eventually       Walter Wingfield decided to cash in on these changes and   certainly not be the same experience.
            some quite un-holy exclamations and cheering. On closer   bats and racquets were being introduced. It is estimated     developed a game that he dubbed Spairistike (from the
            inspection, we might find a game being played in the holy   that there were 2,000 indoor courts in England and a       Greek for “playing ball”) which was so heavily based on                       By Timothy Mottram
            cloisters of these religious spaces. It probably didn’t have a   similar number in France by this stage. The goal of the   paume that it quickly went on to replace it.
            name, but the sport these monks were playing was the root   period was to hit the ball into a net suspended from the
            of what we today call tennis.                      roof, which has subsequently been reversed with changes
               In fact, there is evidence of ball games that resemble   to the game.
            tennis coming from deep history. It is suggested that   It was played by the common people in large numbers,
            Egyptians and later Persians enjoyed whacking a ball   but came increasingly to be seen as a royal sport.
            across a room, and that the sport was eventually brought   Shakespeare references it in his play Henry V when the             One of the reasons for the enduring
            west with the Saracen invasions of the 6th century AD. The   French dauphin sends tennis balls to Henry as an insult.
            game moved through France, and by the middle of the   There then ensues one of literature’s earliest sporting
            medieval period was gaining popularity in England.   metaphors when Henry retorts “we will, in France, by God’s             popularity of the sport is how it allowed
               The cloisters don’t seem the most obvious place for   grace, play a set”.
            tennis to be played, but in terms of the social environment                                                                 women to play from comparatively early.
            and technology of the time, it does make some sense. The   English King and famous
            balls were either hard-stuffed cloth or cork and leather                                                                    The first Wimbledon ladies’ singles was
            balls, and at this stage were propelled by being struck with   wife-murderer Henry VIII was a
            the hand. They would therefore not be going too far. Many
            laymen eventual came to play the game at the cloisters,   tennis nut in his younger days,                                   held in 1884, though the Irish had beaten
            despite the enthusiasm of the monks themselves.    and had a court constructed
               It became such a distraction during this period that                                                                     them to that honour five years prior.
            kings and popes even tried to have it banned. It was   at Hampton Court.
            outlawed in England in 1388 because instead of practising



















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