History of tennis

The sport of tennis originated in France during the 12th century, when the first courts appeared in the courtyards of castles and monasteries. By the 13th century, the sport had gained significant popularity, as there were close to 1800 courts in France. It was originally known as jeu de paumme (the game of the palm) because players would hit a ball with their bare hands. Eventually a glove was used for the protection of the hand, and by the 1500s the first rackets were used.

Royal patronage advanced the sport in Great Britain as well as in France, as French kings in the 1500s and Stuart kings in the 1600s were enthusiastic players. Lawn tennis emerged in England during the Victorian era, as many members of the wealthy class began playing the game on outdoor courts at country estates. Tennis eventually surpassed croquet in popularity, and in 1875, the All England Croquet Club, formed in 1869, decided to offer tennis as well. The sport was such a success that in 1877, the club changed its name to the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club. In order to finance its expensive rent on the grounds of the London suburb of Wimbledon, the club organized the first-ever organized lawn tennis tournament – the Wimbledon Championship – in 1877.

Tennis was one of the nine sports contested at the first modern Olympics, in 1896 in Athens. Tennis was contested as a medal sport at the next six Games, through 1924. Tennis was removed from the Olympic program after 1924, but reappeared as an official medal sport for the first time at the 1988 Seoul Games. Tennis was one of the first Olympic sports to include women, as women played the sport at the 1900 Paris Games.

Golden Slam

With the reintroduction of tennis in the Olympics, tennis players had the chance to win all four major titles and Olympic gold in the same calendar year, a feat coined the “Golden Slam.” So far, only one athlete has won the “Golden Slam”: Steffi Graf, who won all five events in 1988 representing West Germany. The closest anyone else has come to a calendar year Golden Slam was in 2012 and 2013 when doubles partners Bob and Mike Bryan first won the Olympic gold medal and then the next four majors: 2012 U.S. Open, 2013 Australian Open, 2013 French Open and 2013 Wimbledon Championships. Though they completed the feat within 12 months, all of the events did not fall in the same calendar year. Here is a list of all the athletes who have completed a career Golden Slam:

  • Andre Agassi (USA) – men’s singles
  • Bob and Mike Bryan (USA) – men’s doubles
  • Gigi Fernandez (USA) – women’s doubles)
  • Steffi Graf (FRG/GER) – women’s singles
  • Rafael Nadal (ESP) – men’s singles
  • Daniel Nestor (CAN) – men’s doubles
  • Pam Shriver (USA) – women’s doubles
  • Serena Williams (USA) – women’s singles
  • Serena and Venus Williams (USA) – women’s doubles
  • Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde (AUS) – men’s doubles