An aerial shot of a tennis match for the opening day of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships
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Game, set, match. Serving up some tennis history
The modern game of tennis we know today took off in the 1870s, but its origins trace back to the 12th century to an ancient sport called 'jeu de paume'. The game was popular in France but there were no racquets involved. Instead, players used the palm of their hand to strike the ball, which would usually be made from leather. It was not until the 16th century that racquets came into use. Now referred to as 'real tennis' – resembling a mixture of squash and lawn tennis – it was played indoors and popular with royalty, most notably Henry VIII, who was a keen and talented player. (It is even rumoured that he was playing tennis at Hampton Court when he received news of Anne Boleyn's beheading.)Real tennis' popularity dwindled in the 17th and 18th centuries before the lawn version of the racquet sport was invented. In 1875, the All England Croquet Club in Wimbledon introduced lawn tennis at its grounds to capitalise on the growing interest of the new sport and compensate for the waning interest in croquet, which was causing the club financial problems. Lawn tennis became so popular that the name of the club was formally changed, and in 1877, a tennis tournament was organised to pay for the repair of the club’s pony roller that was needed to maintain the lawns. The Gentlemen's Singles competition, the only event of the inaugural Wimbledon Championships, was the world's first official lawn tennis tournament and soon evolved into the most prestigious tennis event in the world. And the first name on the trophy? Spencer Gore, a volley specialist at a time when the shot was considered by some to be unsporting. You cannot be serious?!