Tennis History

Tennis History

What is the history of Tennis? What are its origins? Where did Tennis come from? Who invented it? Here is the history of Tennis.

Tennis is a sport that can be played either individually or as part of a two-person team. Each player is equipped with a specially designed tennis racket, with the object of the game being to successfully hit the ball over the net such that the opponent fails to return the ball within the boundary of play. Games are played on a rectangular court with a net running across the center. There are a variety of different playing surfaces, including grass and clay.

Country of Origin

Tennis originated in France, where members of the French monastery used their hands to make contact with the ball during the 12th century. Towards the beginning of the 16th century, rackets were invented and the sport expanded into surrounding areas such as England. It was not until this point in time that tennis gained its official name.


While the early origins of tennis lie in the 12th century, the modern version of outdoor tennis that exists today did not come about until the back-half of the 19th century. The invention of modern tennis is generally credited to Walter Wingfield of London, who introduced a style of play involving rubber balls and a manicured grass court in 1873. Wingfield’s invention was a big moment in the history of tennis, as it proved that the sport could be played outdoors and validated the idea of striking the ball with rackets.


The official establishment of tennis as a sport likely occurred around 1500. Rackets and balls specific to tennis were starting to be manufactured at this time, and approximately 1,800 indoor courts were created in England to accommodate a growing desire to play the sport. Outdoor tennis was not established until 1877, a few years after Wingfield introduced modern gameplay features. It was also around this time that previously utilized hourglass-shaped courts gave way to the rectangular courts viewers and players are accustomed to today.


Tennis became extremely popular throughout the 1870’s, as croquet clubs in England started to adopt the sport when it was realized that pre-existing grass croquet courts were perfectly suitable for tennis matches. The year also marked the first recorded tennis tournament, with the All England Croquet Club hosting the inaugural Wimbledon Championship. To this day, Wimbledon is played each year and is widely considered to be one of the most important and prestigious competitive events for professional tennis players. Moreover, tennis is currently the fourth most popular sport around the world.

Listed below are the countries in which tennis is most popular. Rankings are based on overall popularity of the sport and the number of events held in each nation.

  1. Australia
  2. France
  3. New Zealand
  4. Switzerland
  5. England

Key Facts and Timeline

  • 1873: modern tennis is invented by Walter Wingfield in London
  • 1877: first ever Wimbledon tournament takes place in England
  • 1881: tennis expands to the United States, prompting the establishment of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) to oversee competitions and the first U.S. Open Championship event
  • 1900: Davis Cup (largest team event in men’s tennis) is played for the very first time
  • 1913: International Tennis Federation (ITF) is created to regulate all international events and standardize a set of rules for international play
  • 1937: first radio broadcast of a tennis match
  • 1970: tiebreaker stipulation added to tennis rules and regulations
  • 1972: Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) is formed, professional men’s and women’s tennis players are assigned worldwide rankings based on their placement in various events and tournaments throughout the year
  • 1977: Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum opened in London to commemorate memorable moments in the history of outdoor tennis
  • 1989: clay courts are deemed suitable for professional tennis matches
  • 2006: Roger Federer wins three out of four major tournament championships
  • 2017: Serena Williams solidifies herself as the greatest women’s tennis player ever by winning a record 23rd major championship