History of Tennis
The word "TENNIS" comes from the French "TENETS", today "TENEZ", imperative of the verb tenir. It means "HOLD!", or "TO YOU!" exclamation with which, at the origin of the game, the throwing of the ball to the opponent was accompanied. The game of tennis is traced back to the French "jeu de paume" or rope ball game, a sport practiced in a hall and which consisted of referring a ball from one side of a thread to the other by hitting it with the palm of the hand wrapped in leather. From the sixteenth century the hand is replaced by a wooden racket, the thread from a net and the competition takes place according to the fundamental principles of today's tennis. The first tennis courts did not have the traditional rectangular shape to which we are accustomed, they were instead hourglass-shaped, that is, consisting of two trapezes joined for the shorter side and divided by a very high net. It was not until 1877 at Wimbledon that we encountered a court that in length and width reflects the current measurements. However, the net was still very high: 152 cm. on the sides and 99 cm. in the middle! In 1880 it was decided to reduce the height of the net and fix the distance of the batting line. In Italy most of the fields are on clay. The tennis players' first estates were strictly white with long-sleeved shirts, which were then rolled up to the elbows, and linen or flannel trousers depending on the season. The color was strictly banned and even today in some circles it is a must to dress in white. The short-sleeved seal and traditional shorts made an appearance around the 1940s. The introduction of color into tennis clothing dates back to the early 1970s and was a fashion of clear American inspiration. Currently white is back to being the predominant color even if accompanied by patterned patterns. With regard to advertising, which we often find imprinted on the polo shirts of the best players, there are rather strict rules: the space granted to it must not exceed 13 cm. Square. The first tennis balls were not very dissimilar to modern ones. They were Indian rubber balls covered in white cloth and had a weight and size lower than the current ones. The cloth was sewn externally like baseballs. It was not until 1924 that welded balls began to be used. The ball must have a uniform outer surface and must be white or yellow in color. Currently the yellow ball is used in 90% of competitions.
The first modern-shaped rackets were built around 1870, were made of wood and had the plate ropes in the shape of a pere. From the traditional wooden racket we moved, in the late 1960s to the first metal rackets. From the metal we then moved on to fiberglass, kevlar and graphite. Regarding the shape, the current rackets may have the string plate more or less large. As far as strings are concerned, however, we have moved from natural gut to an innumerable range of strings made of synthetic material, nylon and polyamide, strings that in some cases ensure the same characteristics of elasticity and absorption as the gut.
Officially, modern tennis was born, like so many other sports, in England in 1873 thanks to Major Walter Wingfield who introduced him to Queen Victoria during a lawn party. It is immediately love at first sight: the first English Championship was played only four years later, in 1877, and in 1888 the Lawn Tennis Association was founded with the aim of codifying the rules of the game. The new sport spread rapidly throughout Europe and in 1881 landed in America. The Davis Cup was born in 1900, but in the first editions it will be a challenge for only two nations: England and the United States. In 1926 the era of professional tournaments began and in 1968 the international federation accepted professionalism for all tournaments.
Grand Slam tournaments
Grand Slam is a term that originates in the bridge game, in which it indicates the maximum achievable blow: it consists, in fact, of 13 shots made against the opponent. Tennis borrowed this word to indicate the achievement of victory in the four tournaments listed below, over a year:
- Australian Open -> during the 3rd and 4th week of January, concrete surface.
- French Open – Roland Garros -> between May and June, clay court.
- Wimbledon -> between June and July, grass surface.
- Flushing Meadows – U.S. Open -> between August and September, concrete surface.
The term was originally applied to victory in the four tournaments, over the course of the "same" year. These tournaments are then known as Grand Slam Tournaments, and are considered as the most important tournaments of the year in the public eye, and also with regard to the recognized cash prizes and points awarded for the tennis rankings.
Gold Grand Slam: The term Golden Grand Slam refers to the victory of the four grand slam tournaments and the gold medal at the Summer Olympic Games in the same year. So far, the only person to have achieved such a result has been Steffi Graf in 1988.
The first Australian Open was held in 1905 at Warehouseman's Cricket Ground in Melbourne. For many years the tournament took place in various states of Australia, until 1972, when it was decided to hold the Open in the city that exercised the most favor. He opted for Melbourne, and the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club. In 1986, construction began on a new facility, Flinders Park, staged at the 1988 Ford Australian Open. Flinders Park was named Melbourne Park in 1996, the current venue for the tournament.
French Open – Roland Garros
It was the year 1891 when the first edition of the French International Championships was held. Theatre was the Stade Francais, one of the most prestigious clubs in the country, founded in 1883. After this edition, the championships were played every year, but were reserved for French citizens, or in any case for members of national clubs, and only in 1897 women were allowed to participate. The tournament became international in 1925. At that time the matches were held not only on the stade francais courts, but also on those of the Racing Club de France at la Croix-Catelan. However, these facilities soon proved insufficient to accommodate the increasing number of enthusiasts. It was then decided to provide Paris with a suitable stadium and for this reason a special committee was formed. The new facility was named after one of its members: Roland Garros, an aviation pioneer who had little to do with the racket. The stadium, built in the Art-Deco style, has been the home of the French Open since 1928. Renovation and extension work is currently under way.
The most important tennis tournament was born in 1877 with the aim of resurrecting the fortunes of a small suburban club, the All England Croquet Club, founded in 1868, at Wimbledon. To pay the rent of the lawns, one of the club's founders, Henry Jones, decided to combine croquet with the new game of tennis, invented by Major Wingfield only four years earlier. And it was always Jones who thought of organizing in his circle a tennis tournament open to all amateurs. England's first tennis championship, the first in the world, had kicked off. On the occasion of the tournament, the ground was fixed and new rules were introduced, which are still valid today, apart from a few changes.
Flushing Meadows – U.S. Open
Tennis arrived in America in 1873. The first official tournament was organized, on private initiative, in 1876 in Massachusetts. However, it was in 1880 that the first real tournament was born: it was Emilius Outerbridge, director of Staten Island Cricket and Baseball, who promoted it to his Newport club. For a long time the American championships could not be called international due to the difficulties of the time to face ocean crossings. In addition, there has long been a real barrier between professionals and amateurs in America. Barrier felled only in 1968, when the first U was played.S.Open on the grass courts of the West Side Club in Forest Hills. In 1968 the green land of Forest Hills gave way to the concrete of Flushing Meadows.
With the passage in the third millennium, the Davis Cup crossed the threshold of its first century of life. It was born, in fact, a hundred years ago, from an intuition of the young American champion Dwight Davis and was played for the first time in 1900 between the United States and Great Britain with the formula, unchanged, of four cross singles and a double to be played over three days of the race. The symbol of this prestigious competition, considered in all respects the World Team Tennis Championship for nations, is the famous salad bowl, a huge solid silver cup that Dwight Davis, then twenty years old Harvard student, made to put it up for grabs between the United States and Great Britain, nations that for the first time, in Boston, contested the superb trophy. It was not easy to organise the match: england's strongest players, brothers Reginald and Laurie Doherty, were opposed to the initiative and the idea of crossing the Atlantic. The British federation decided to send a reserve team to the United States, certain that it would have no problem beating the Americans. But that was not the case. The following year the British did not feel able to return to America. The challenge was renewed in 1902, when the British were again defeated. It was not until 1903 that the English managed to win the cup. As we have seen, at the beginning only the United States and Great Britain contested the Davis Cup. But by 1913 the participating nations had become eight, with the admission of France, Belgium, Austria, Australasia (now Australia), Germany and South Africa. The number of participating nations increased again in the following years, until, in 1923, the 17 teams entered were divided into two groups called the European Zone and the American Zone: from that moment the winners of the two groups would meet, in an Interzone final, to determine which of the two teams would contest the Cup – in the so-called Challenge Round – to the winning nation of the previous edition. The Davis Cup formula was reformed again in 1981 with the creation of a first World Group for the 16 strongest nations (the Serie A) and a second World Qualifying Group (the B series), also of 16 teams, with a mechanism of relegation and promotion. Later, other smaller groups were introduced for the weaker nations and currently exist, in addition to the World Group, three other Groups, each of which is divided into several zones (Euro-Africa, America, Asia-Oceania).
The first Federation Cup was held in 1963, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the International Tennis Federation, and has been held annually ever since.
The Federation Cup is the most important tennis tournament for women's national teams, the equivalent of the Men's Davis Cup.