Olympic Tennis History

Tennis was started in the 11th century in France. It was initially played in a monastery courtyard whose walls and sloping roofs were used as part of the court. Its French name was “jeu de paume” which translated as “game of the palm” and later “tenez” “meaning “here it comes.” In the 1870s, the game was designed and codified in England leading to the introduction of modern courts and rackets. Its name also changed hence the name tennis whose meaning in Anglo-Norman translated as “hold” and “receive.” However, it was until 1896 it got introduced in the Olympic Games in Athens. During the first edition of the modern Olympic games, John Bolland of Ireland won the first gold medal. In the 1900s England’s Charlotte Cooper became the first woman to win the tennis singles.

Since 1896, more improvements have taken place such as the introduction of clay and hardwood surfaces and rubber ball which easily bounced. Its first debut for men took place in Paris in 1896 while that of women took place in 1900. It was then officially introduced in the Olympic Games in 1924 but later disappeared after the Olympic committee and tennis federation failed to agree on whether professional players could be allowed to compete.

In 1988 it was reinstituted, and Steffi Graf won the women’s gold while Miloslav Mecir of Czechoslovakia won the men’s gold. During the 64 years break-up, a fluorescent yellow or a yellow optic ball was introduced after research demonstrated that it was more visible on TV. Tennis balls covered in a fibrous material with a white curvilinear oval around it were also introduced due to their aerodynamic properties. However, both yellow and white balls are allowed by the International Tennis Federation. Over the years, Venus Williams and her sister Serena Willims have been the most successful all-time tennis players with four golds.

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