There is still a strong debate on the origin of tennis among Egyptians, Romans and Greeks, but historians’ state that the game first began only in the late 11th century. The earliest records about this game state that French monks used to pass their free time playing a crude handball game over a rope strung across an open courtyard. This was later picked up by locals who kept the game limited to open courtyards and balls were struck against the wall using hands. With time people modified the game and started wearing gloves with webbing to hit the ball. Further innovation led to nets tied on pieces of wood like a modern racquet but the ball was strangely made of wool or cork tied with string and cloth.
Once the nobility learnt the game from the monks and locals, the game attained further popularity and by the 13th century, there were nearly 1800 courts in France. Once English kings Henry VII and later Henry VIII developed a fascination for tennis, which spread to England and several more tennis courts were built. Around 1500, the net and handle morphed into a wooden racquet with net made of sheep gut while a cork ball weighing three ounces was made the official ball for this game. Early courts of tennis were generally indoors and the present format of lawn tennis developed only in the 1600’s.
Over the next few years people lost interest in the game due to the turbulent political and economic conditions until Charles Goodyear developed the rubber ball and players developed a likeness for this bouncy object. This rubber ball made the outdoor game more interesting and a new set of rules were made to accommodate the change in equipment. In 1874 the game underwent further changes when Major Walter C Wingfield patented both rules and equipment for playing tennis. By now the game gained popularity in United States and soon the game traveled to Canada, Russia and to Far East locations like India and China. Since tennis could be played in croquet courts it was readily adopted around the world.
Wingfield’s original tennis court design came under criticism for its hourglass design, so he left it to others to make the changes. The first Wimbledon tournament which was held in 1877 by All England Club had a rectangular court and almost the same set of regulations that are followed today. The French Open tennis championship that we know today was developed as a tournament for French nationals only in 1891 and was held by members of French Tennis clubs. Women joined tennis during 1897 when the first women’s singles tournament was held. In 1925 the organizers of French Championship opened the tournament to international amateurs and it was declared as the second grand slam title after Wimbledon. The first tennis tournaments in United States were held in 1881 and only certain local club members were allowed to play. Different tournaments were later held as men’s singles, men’s doubles and women’s singles and doubles followed by men and women mixed doubles. All five events were combined together as US open in 1970 which opened to the professionals from all around the world.