Tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world, and it’s been around for a long time. In fact, its origin can be traced back as far as the 12th Century, when people played an indoor handball game called jeu de paume or the "game of the palm."
Since then, the game has evolved to what we know today. It is also one of the very few sports that can be played on several surfaces, including (but not limited to): grass, hard surfaces, clay, and artificial grass.
Indeed, there's so much more to tennis than we realize. Because of its long history, we at Tennis Court Supply have been inspired by it and decided to find some interesting and fun facts about this beloved sport for your reading pleasure.
Here’s our list of five interesting facts about tennis:
1. The predecessor of tennis was called Jeu de Paume.
The humble beginnings of tennis date back to 12th Century France. Back then, people enjoyed a ball-and-court game called jeu de paume, which translates to "game of the palm." As its name suggests, it wasn't played with a racquet (as modern tennis does), but instead, with bare hands.
But over time, players had begun to wear gloves to protect their hands. Jeu de paume continued to evolve. In fact, around the 17th Century, players have begun to incorporate the use of bats and eventually racquets. Despite the changes to the game, the name jeu de paume remained.
There were a few variations to it, though, where the indoor version of the game is referred to as jeu de courte paume (meaning, short palm), while the outdoor one is called longue paume (meaning, long palm).
Another fun fact: Jeu de paume was part of the 1908 Summer Olympics as a medal event.
2. Tennis balls weren't always optic yellow.
In the early days of tennis, the color of the tennis ball was not necessarily yellow. Instead, they used to be white or even black – and it all depended on the color of the courts and the background.
Tennis balls come with a long history, too. Leather or cloth stuffed with rags, horsehair, or other materials, were traditionally used for making tennis balls. The earlier forms were, in fact, made of wood!
It was only in the 1870s when the tennis balls were made entirely of rubber. But tennis balls evolved once more to improve the quality of play. The rubber tennis balls were then covered with stitched flannel.
As the game evolved, the demand for the balls to have more uniformity and fewer deformities grew. So, manufacturers began to replace the flannel with a material called melton, and vulcanized rubber seams replaced the stitches.
Today's yellow-colored tennis balls came later in 1972 when the International Tennis Federation or ITF shared that the color yellow makes the ball easier to follow visually on TV.
Wimbledon only began to adapt to the color yellow in 1986. Prior to that, Wimbledon players were using white tennis balls.
3. No one knows exactly where the tennis term "love" originates from.
If you have been wondering where the term "love" comes from, you're not alone. We do, too!
In fact, it has always been a mystery to us why it's used. We can only surmise how the word came about. There are a few theories, though, and one of those that seems most plausible is that it originated from the French language.
According to one theory, the word love (as in score zero in tennis) was derived from the French word, "l’oeuf," which translates to egg. Come to think of it, an egg looks like a "zero," too!
Another theory states that the word could be of Dutch or Flemish origin. "Lof," which sounds almost like "love," means honor – and what is more honorable than scoring a zero?! But until now, nobody knows for sure how the word "love" came about.
4. Tennis hasn't always been a part of the Olympics.
Since tennis is so popular, you might think it’s a part of every Olympic Game there is. Well, you'd be wrong.
Tennis was introduced to the Olympics as early as 1896. However, due to disagreements between International Lawn Tennis Federation and the International Olympic Committee, the game had to be removed from the program.
Tennis returned to the Olympics in 1988 as a full medal sport. Until then, it was only a demonstration sport.
5. Tennis courts weren't always rectangular.
We know that tennis courts are usually rectangular, but did you know that there were times when they were in an hourglass shape?
Lawn tennis pioneer, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield, patented a version of the game in 1873. That's when he introduced the hourglass court design, which is the very basis of how the markings are placed on the modern-day tennis court.
A couple of years after Major Wingfield's patent, Marylebone Cricket Club revised the shape of the tennis court to a rectangular form. Since then, the shape has remained unchanged.
So if you ever wondered how tennis courts got their current shape, this is the reason behind it.
Isn't it amazing how much we still don't know about one of the world's favorite sports? We hope you enjoyed our list of 5 interesting facts about tennis. Which is your favorite? Do you know a fun fact or two you'd like to share? Let us know below!
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And if ever you're in the market to purchase tennis supplies online, we've got you! Just visit our online store here to have an idea of all the cool stuff we have to offer.