The History Of Tennis

Amazingly, according to research the history of Tennis could well date back thousands of years, as far as Ancient Greece.

Although, Tennis as its known today is likely to have been developed from a handball game known as “Paume” (palm) in 12th century France. As its name suggests, this game was exclusive with the hand, with even the most basic racket still yet to be invented!

Much later “Paume” eventually developed into “Jeu de Paume” (palm game) which was eventually played with a leather glove and then a bat, known as “Battoirs”, which lead the way to strung rackets for the first time in the 17th century. Despite these advancements, the game itself did not change.

Tennis From The 16th – 18th Century


1530: English king Henry VIII builds a tennis court at Hampton Court Palace. Sadly the original court no longer exists, however, a court was rebuilt in 1625 which is still in use, today!
1583: The first racquet was invented in Italy

Tennis In The 19th Century

  • 1870: All England Croquet Club established in the Wimbledon district of London
  • 1873: Major Walter Wingfield invented a version of Real Tennis that can be played outdoors on a lawn
  • 1874: First Lawn Tennis Tournament takes place in the USA
  • 1875: Henry Cavendish Jones convinces the All England Croquet Club to replace a Croquet court with a lawn Tennis court
  • 1877: First World Championship held in Wimbledon, UK
  • 1880: Birth of the Overheard Smash shot
  • 1881: First US Open Tennis Tournament
  • 1884: First Men’s & Women’s Double Championships
  • 1887: First Women’s U.S. Championships is held
  • 1888: Lawn Tennis Association Founded (LTA)
  • 1891: First French Championships are Played
  • 1896: Tennis is one of the main sports in the first modern Olympic Games
  • 1897: French Championships are open to Women for the first time
  • 1899: The England Croquet Club changed its name to the All England Tennis & Croquet Club

Tennis In The 20th Century

history of tennis

  • 1900: International Lawn Tennis Champions Trophy founded – later known as the Davis Cup
  • 1905: Australasian National Championships Founded – Later known as the Australian Open
  • 1913: ILTF Founded – later became ITF in 1977
  • 1919: Suzanne Lenglen wins her first Wimbledon title
  • 1922: Australasian Championship opens for Women for the first time
  • 1924: Tennis withdrawn from Olympic Games
  • 1925:
    – French Residents Only rule dropped from the French Championships
    – Australasian championships became Australian Championships and would be hosted only in the territory of Australia
  • 1927:
    – The French Tennis Association build the Roland Garros stadium – Named after a French fighter pilot who fought in WWI
    – In the Wimbledon Championships idea of seeding players was presented for the first
  • time
  • 1928: Roland Garros hosts the French Championships for the first time
  • 1930: Tennis Rackets undergo an improvement as one-piece Ashwood rackets are replaced with laminated wood
  • 1933: Australian Jack Crawford comes within one set of winning all four major titles in the same year. Winning the Australian Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon and was beaten in the final of the U.S. Open in five sets
  • 1938: Don Budge becomes the first Tennis player to win all 4 Grand Slam Championships in the same year
  • 1947: Jack Kramer wins Wimbledon after turning professional in just the previous year
  • 1950: Pro Tour created by Jack Cramer becomes very popular with both amateur Tennis players and the public
  • 1953: Maureen Connelly becomes the first woman who wins all 4 Grand Slam Championships
  • 1960: The debate for the idea of Open Tennis is defeated by just 5 votes – It meant the four Grand Slam tournaments remained purely for ‘amateurs’, and any man who had won a couple of majors in their early 20s was likely to leave the official circuit to earn money as a touring professional
  • 1967:
    – A major advancement in Tennis rackets appears with the first metal Tennis racket, thanks to Wilson.
    – Wimbledon holds a demonstration tournament for professionals and declares that its 1968 championships will be open to all participants, amateurs, and professionals
  • 1968: The “Open Era” of Tennis begins
  • 1968: The first official “open” Tennis tournament takes place at Bournemouth, England
  • 1969: Rodney George “Rod” Laver of Australia becomes the first man to win a pure “open” Grand Slam
  • 1970: The tiebreak is introduced to Grand Slam tennis
  • 1972: The Association of Tennis Professionals is formed and Jack Kramer is chosen as first Executive Director
  • 1973: Wimbledon is boycotted by the ATP following the suspension of Yugoslav Nikki Pilic
  • 1974: Bjorn Borg wins his first Grand Slam singles title at the French Open. Having won his first top level singles title just two weeks previous in the Italian Open
Bjorn Borg Wins First Grand Slam at French Open
Bjorn Borg Wins First Grand Slam at French Open
  • 1976: Further improvements of Tennis rackets are made with the appearance of the first graphite and fiberglass racket, Thanks to Howard Head
  • 1977: US Open is moved to Flushed Meadows
  • 1980: The Tiebreaker shootout record is broken in a 34 point shootout in the Wimbledon Championships final when Bjorn Borg has seven championship points to beat John McEnroe in four sets, McEnroe wins the seventh point to take the match into a fifth and final set, which Borg wins 8-6.
  • 1984:
    – Clay develops into a temporary indoor surface when Sweden becomes the first country to install a makeshift clay court for a Davis Cup tie
    – Tennis also returns to the Olympic Games as a test event for under-21 players at Los Angeles, won by Stefan Edberg and Steffi Graf
  • 1985: The German player Boris Becker was the youngest ever and first unseeded Wimbledon Men’s Singles Champion at the age of just 17
  • 1988: The Australian Open Championships moves into a new national Tennis center at Flinders Park, later renamed Melbourne Park. The first Tennis stadium with a retractable roof
  • 1989: The ATP transforms itself from a players’ union into a touring body
  • 1990: Martina Navratilova became the Wimbledon ladies Singles Champion for a record 9th time.
  • 1994: Tennis on grass is played in indoor conditions for the first time

Tennis In The 21st Century

  • 2000: The ATP drops ‘Tour’ from its name
  • 2001: Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia became the first Wimbledon wildcard ever to win the Men’s Singles title
  • 2002: Venus and Serena Williams become the first sisters in Tennis history to be ranked #1 (Serena) and #2 (Venus) in the WTA world rankings list
  • 2003: Pete Sampras retires from Tennis after the US Open. He won 64 singles titles!
  • 2004: Roger Federer becomes the first man in Tennis history since Mats Wilander in 1988 to win three of the four grand slam events (Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open) in a single calendar year
  • 2005: The ATP introduces a different scoring system for doubles matches, with sudden-death points at deuce (no advantage) and the first-to-ten-points tiebreak in place of a final set.
  • 2006:
    – Tennis legend Andre Agassi retires on 3rd September 2006 following a 7-5 6-7(4) 6-4 7-5 defeat to Benjamin Becker in the third round of the US Open.
    – The right for players to challenge dubious line calls by electronic review is introduced in the Miami Masters Series tournament, known as Hawk-Eye, making its Grand Slam debut at the US Open later in the same year
  • 2007: On 19 May, Rafael Nadal claims 81 straight wins on clay to set a new all-surface record. His run was ended by Roger Federer in the Hamburg Masters final the following day.
    – On the 9th September of this year, Roger Federer became the first man in Tennis history since Bill Tilden in the 1920s to win 4 US Open titles in a row, beating Novak Djokovic in the final
  • 2008: Federers’ incredible grass-court winning streak in the Open Era ends in 2008 Wimbledon final when he’s beaten by Rafael Nadal. He won a record 65 consecutive matches on grass, running from 2003 to 2008
  • 2009:
  • 2010: The longest Tennis match on record occurred between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010. Lasting 11 hours and 5 minutes and was contested over three days! John Isner
Longest Ever Tennis Match
  • 2013: Andy Murray wins his first Wimbledon title. Making him the first British player in 77 years to win the Wimbledon title, last won by Fred Perry in 1936
  • 2017: Roger Federer wins a record 8th Wimbledon title. Overtaking Pete Sampras (Open Era) and William Renshaw (Amateur Era)
  • 2020: All major Tennis tournaments are canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first time the sport has been halted worldwide since WWII

Darinka Aleksic has been writing for Tennis Tips since its launch and has been an integral part of our team. Her role is to cover topics regarding everything tennis-related around the globe. From expert equipment reviews to exercise tips and tricks, she covers all the fields with a lot of attention to detail.

Her goal is to deliver top-notch tennis content and keep you up to date with everything in the modern tennis era while also reminding you about the game’s roots and history. Sports have always been a fundamental part of her life ever since she started playing tennis at the age of seven.

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