Tennis is a game that has its roots with the French in the 12th century, but did not start to resemble the game we know today until the 16th century, when racquets were incorporated.Previous to that, the balls were volleyed back and forth with the palm of a bare hand, which later could be covered by a glove. At first, tennis was played indoors, because balls were hit off walls rather than volleyed back and forth directly, though some early grass courts were constructed by monastery monks. By the 16th century, the game had acquired great popularity in France, with King Francis I and Henri II both being well regarded and enthusiastic players. It was also in the 16th century that the game acquired the name of “tennis” and that first major book about tennis, Trattato del Giuoco della Palla was written by Antonio Scaino da Salothe.
Further tennis developments came as a result of the formation of other, similar games in the United Kingdom.
Two Englishman named Harry Gem and Augurio Perera created a game similar to tennis, which incorporated a different Basque game called pelota. It was this variation that caused them and two other men to form the first tennis club in 1872 and start one of the first tennis tournaments in 1884. Another game that contributed to modern day tennis was sphairistike, which was developed by Major Clopton Wingfield. Sphairistike made its contribution to tennis by way of its terminology, which was taken from the terms of French tennis and incorporated into Wingfield’s game.
During tennis’ early years, rules were not standardized and often varied between tennis clubs. It wasn’t until 1881, with the formation of the United States National Lawn Championship, that tennis rules were standardized in the United States. International tennis rules remained inconsistent until 1924, when the International Lawn Tennis Federation established comprehensive rules that, with very few exceptions, have remained the same up to the present day.
As tennis continued to grow and establish itself, various tournaments were formed to allow rival tennis players to test their skill. The first major tournament to be established was at Wimbledon, which began playing championships in 1877. The other events that make up what is now referred to as the Majors or “Slams” also developed early on, with what would become the U.S. Open starting in 1881, the French Open beginning in 1891, and the Australian Open forming in 1905. A player that is able to win all four of these tournaments in a single year is said to have won a Grand Slam, an event that has only happened six times in tennis history, three each for the men and the women. There is also a career Grand Slam for a player who can win all four tournaments in the space of a career, a less rare, but still not common feat.
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