Page 7 - Touchline 32-JULY 2019
P. 7


               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

 6  |  TOUCHLINEMAGAZINE.COM                                                     TOUCHLINEMAGAZINE.COM  |  7
   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12