Although popularly known to have originated from Europe, the origins of tennis can be traced back in ancient Egypt around 1500BC. The earliest evidences are the drawings discovered on the walls of Egyptian temples built more than 3000 years ago. This proves that the Egyptians were the first to have actually played this ball game as part of their religious traditions. Eventually, the concept of this ball game reached Southern France in 800AD brought by the influence of the Moors.
The first Europeans who played the early version of tennis were Christian monks. The game was still called ‘La Soule’ where players used their hands or a stick to hit the ball. ‘La Soule’ soon became a popular ball game outside of the monasteries. Later on, around the 12th and 13th centuries, the game was further developed. Instead of just using the hand, players created a leather glove so that they could take more control when hitting the ball with their hands. As time went by, a wooden stick was added to the glove which led to the birth of the tennis racket. Meanwhile, the ball also had also evolved from solid wood to softer balls that are now used today. It was not long when the game became popular and has entered the royal palaces of France.
It was during the 16th to 18th century that tennis really became the game that we now know today. It was also during this time that it became the popular sport of the royalties in France and was called the game of the palm. The word tennis came from the French word that was being shouted by early French players at the beginning of the game ‘tenez’ meaning play.
Shortly after its popularity among French aristocrats, tennis spread throughout Europe especially in England. In fact, Henry VIII was one of the popular English nobility who became an avid player and even built a tennis court at Hampton Court. Soon, tennis was also greatly accepted in Spain, Germany, Italy, and Holland but its popularity declined during the French Revolution in the 18th century.
But by the turn of the new century, in the Victorian period of England, tennis was significantly revived. New courts were built and tennis clubs appeared. It was at this time that Lawn Tennis came out. With the development of vulcanized rubber, large production of balls that were compatible to the grass thrived and brought tennis into the open. But eventually lawn surfaces became clay and concrete creating no problem at all with the ball.
With the success and popularity of tennis in Europe, it soon replaced croquet as the summer sport. Although croquet enthusiasts tried so hard to revive their game, the organization they formed in 1869 did not succeed in attracting people to support their sport. The croquet club became the Lawn Tennis Club in 1877 which was responsible for the first Lawn Tennis Tournament. The tournament gave rise to a committee that established the rules of the tournament. After this the Wimbledon Championship emerged.
The Wimbledon Championship was one of the highlights in the history of tennis. It is responsible for the high regard given to this sport. It gave the public great champions to admire and to imitate like Fred Perry, Henri Lacoste, and Billie Jean King. With the advent of the radio in the 1930s, the game became increasingly more popular than ever. However, all this suddenly came to an end during World War II. Yet, after the war, the game became resilient as before and more people started playing the game while more technical improvements were added to the game.