Although the history of tennis is murky, it is generally accepted that the sport was played for the first time in France sometime between the 11th and 12th centuries under the name jeu de paume (meaning “game of the palm”).
In the beginning, players would strike a ball with the palm of their hand; however, as time went on, they began to use rackets instead of their hands.
By the late 19th century, the game had gradually developed into the modern version of tennis that is still played today after spreading to other regions of Europe and gradually evolving over time.
Nobody knows who specifically came up with the idea for the game; however, many attribute the modern game, in its current iteration, to Major Walter Clopton Wingfield.
The Sport of Tennis as We Know it Today
The racket game of tennis was invented in Birmingham, England, in the 19th century.
A rectangular court divided by a net was used for the game played by two-to-four players. The players hit a ball back and forth over the net with rackets.
There can be one player on each side of the court for singles or two players for doubles (with two players on each side of the court).
Major Walter Clopton Wingfield is thought to have invented the modern game of tennis after patenting a similar game called “Sphairistike” in 1874.
Both the first Wimbledon competition and the first U.S. National Championship, now known as the U.S. Open, took place in 1877 and 1881, respectively.
With major competitions like the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and U.S. Open held every year, tennis is currently one of the most popular sports in the world.
Who Was Major Walter Clopton Wingfield?
Major Walter Clopton Wingfield (1833-1912) was a British army officer and sportsman credited with inventing tennis. Wingfield was born in Llanfair, Wales, and attended Harrow School and the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, England. He was a British Army officer who saw action in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny.
Wingfield patented a game called “Sphairistike,” in 1869, which was similar to modern tennis. In 1872, he published “The Major’s Game of Lawn Tennis” which included the game’s rules and regulations.
Wingfield established the All England Croquet Club in 1874, which later became the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club and is now simply known as the All England Lawn Tennis Club. The club hosted the first Wimbledon tournament in 1877.
Wingfield was also a military aviation pioneer, having patented a design for a military helicopter in 1907. He died in Nice, France, in 1912. Wingfield is remembered today as the father of modern tennis and a pioneer in military aviation.
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