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Tennis is a racket sport that is played either individually against a single opponent (singles) or between two teams of two players each (doubles). Each player uses a tennis racket that is strung with cord to strike a hollow rubber ball covered with felt over or around a net and into the opponent's court. The object of the game is to manoeuvre the ball in such a way that the opponent is not able to play a valid return. The player who is unable to return the ball validly will not gain a point, while the opposite player will.[1][2]


Tennis is an Olympic sport and is played at all levels of society and at all ages. The sport can be played by anyone who can hold a racket, including wheelchair users. The original forms of tennis developed in France during the late Middle Ages.[3] The modern form of tennis originated in Birmingham, England, in the late 19th century as lawn tennis.[4] It had close connections both to various field (lawn) games such as croquet and bowls as well as to the older racket sport today called real tennis.[5]

The rules of modern tennis have changed little since the 1890s. Two exceptions are that until 1961 the server had to keep one foot on the ground at all times,[6][7] and the adoption of the tiebreak in the 1970s.[8] A recent addition to professional tennis has been the adoption of electronic review technology coupled with a point-challenge system, which allows a player to contest the line call of a point, a system known as Hawk-Eye.[9][10]

Historians believe that the game's ancient origin lay in 12th-century northern France, where a ball was struck with the palm of the hand.[13] Louis X of France was a keen player of jeu de paume ("game of the palm"), which evolved into real tennis, and became notable as the first person to construct indoor tennis courts in the modern style. Louis was unhappy with playing tennis outdoors and accordingly had indoor, enclosed courts made in Paris "around the end of the 13th century".[14] In due course this design spread across royal palaces all over Europe.[14] In June 1316 at Vincennes, Val-de-Marne, and following a particularly exhausting game, Louis drank a large quantity of cooled wine and subsequently died of either pneumonia or pleurisy, although there was also suspicion of poisoning.[15] Because of the contemporary accounts of his death, Louis X is history's first tennis player known by name.[15] Another of the early enthusiasts of the game was King Charles V of France, who had a court set up at the Louvre Palace.[16]

It was not until the 16th century that rackets came into use and the game began to be called "tennis", from the French term tenez, which can be translated as "hold!", "receive!" or "take!", an interjection used as a call from the server to his opponent.[17] It was popular in England and France, although the game was only played indoors, where the ball could be hit off the wall. Henry VIII of England was a big fan of this game, which is now known as real tennis.[18]

The invention of the first lawn mower in Britain in 1830 is believed to have been a catalyst for the preparation of modern-style grass courts, sporting ovals, playing fields, pitches, greens, etc. This in turn led to the codification of modern rules for many sports, including lawn tennis, most football codes, lawn bowls and others.[21]

Between 1859 and 1865 Harry Gem, a solicitor, and his friend Augurio Perera developed a game that combined elements of racquets and the Basque ball game pelota, which they played on Perera's croquet lawn in Birmingham, England.[22][23] In 1872, along with two local doctors, they founded the world's first tennis club on Avenue Road, Leamington Spa.[24] This is where "lawn tennis" was used as the name of an activity by a club for the first time.

In the United States in 1874, Mary Ewing Outerbridge, a young socialite, returned from Bermuda with a sphairistikè set. She became fascinated by the game of tennis after watching British army officers play.[30] She laid out a tennis court at the Staten Island Cricket Club at Camp Washington, Tompkinsville, Staten Island, New York. The first American National championship was played there in September 1880. An Englishman named O.E. Woodhouse won the singles title, and a silver cup worth $100, by defeating Canadian I. F. Hellmuth.[31] There was also a doubles match which was won by a local pair. There were different rules at each club. The ball in Boston was larger than the one normally used in New York.

On 21 May 1881, the oldest nationwide tennis organization in the world[32] was formed, the United States National Lawn Tennis Association (now the United States Tennis Association) in order to standardize the rules and organize competitions.[33] The US National Men's Singles Championship, now the US Open, was first held in 1881 at the Newport Casino, Newport, Rhode Island.[34] The US National Women's Singles Championships were first held in 1887 in Philadelphia.[35]

Tennis also became popular in France, where the French Championships date to 1891, although until 1925 they were open only to tennis players who were members of French clubs.[36] Thus, Wimbledon, the US Open, the French Open and the Australian Open (dating to 1905) became and have remained the most prestigious events in tennis.[37][38] Together, these four events are called the Majors or Slams (a term borrowed from bridge rather than baseball).[39]

The comprehensive rules promulgated in 1924 by the ILTF have remained largely stable in the ensuing 80 years, the one major change being the addition of the tiebreak system designed by Jimmy Van Alen.[43] That same year, tennis withdrew from the Olympics after the 1924 Games, but returned 60 years later as a 21-and-under demonstration event in 1984. This reinstatement was credited by the efforts of then ITF president Philippe Chatrier, ITF general secretary David Gray and ITF vice president Pablo Llorens, with support from International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch. The success of the event was overwhelming, and the IOC decided to reintroduce tennis as a full-medal sport at Seoul in 1988.[44][45]

In 1926, promoter C. C. Pyle established the first professional tennis tour with a group of American and French tennis players playing exhibition matches to paying audiences.[38][48] The most notable of these early professionals were the American Vinnie Richards and the Frenchwoman Suzanne Lenglen.[38][49] Players turned pro, would no longer permitted to compete in the major (amateur) tournaments.[38]

In 1968, commercial pressures and rumours of some amateurs taking money under the table led to the abandonment of this distinction, inaugurating the Open Era, in which all players could compete in all tournaments, and top players were able to make their living from tennis.[50] With the beginning of the Open Era, the establishment of an international professional tennis circuit, and revenues from the sale of television rights, tennis's popularity has spread worldwide, and the sport has shed its middle-class English-speaking image[51] (although it is acknowledged that this stereotype still exists).[51][52]

In 1954, Van Alen founded the International Tennis Hall of Fame, a nonprofit museum in Newport, Rhode Island.[53] The building contains a large collection of tennis memorabilia as well as a hall of fame honouring prominent members and tennis players from all over the world.[54]

The components of a tennis racket include a handle, known as the grip, connected to a neck which joins a roughly elliptical frame that holds a matrix of tightly pulled strings. For the first 100 years of the modern game, rackets were made of wood and of standard size, and strings were of animal gut. Laminated wood construction yielded more strength in rackets used through most of the 20th century until first metal and then composites of carbon graphite, ceramics, and lighter metals such as titanium were introduced. These stronger materials enabled the production of oversized rackets that yielded yet more power. Meanwhile, technology led to the use of synthetic strings that match the feel of gut yet with added durability.

Many companies manufacture and distribute tennis rackets. Wilson, Head and Babolat are three of the most commonly used brands; however, many more companies exist.[57] The same companies sponsor players to use these rackets in the hopes that the company name will become better known by the public.

The first type of tennis strings available were natural gut strings, introduced by Babolat. They were the only type used until synthetic strings were introduced in the 1950s. Natural gut strings are still used frequently by players such as Roger Federer. They are made from cow intestines, and provide increased power, and are easier on the arm than most strings.[59]

Most synthetic strings are made from monofilament or multifiliament nylon strings. Monofilament strings are cheap to buy, and are used widely by many recreational level players for their all round performance, while multifilament strings are created to mimic natural gut more closely by weaving together fibres, but are generally more expensive than their monofilament counterparts.[58] Polyester strings allow for more spin on the ball than any other string, due to their firm strings, while keeping control of the ball, and this is why many players use them, especially higher player ones.[60] Kevlar tennis strings are highly durable, and are mostly used by players that frequently break strings, because they maintain tension well, but these strings can be stiff on the arm.[61]

Hybrid stringing is when a tennis racket is strung with two different strings for the mains (the vertical strings) and the crosses (the horizontal strings). This is most commonly done with two different strings that are made of different materials, but can also be done with two different types of the same string. A notable example of a player using hybrid strings is Roger Federer, using natural gut strings in his mains and polyester strings in his crosses.[62] 041b061a72


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