History

“To see Good Tennis! What divine joy
Can fill our leisure, or our minds employ?
Let other people play at other things;
The King of Games is still the Game of Kings”

from Parker’s Piece by J.K. Stephen

The game of tennis is the same everywhere. The name given to the game differs in different countries. In Great Britain it is called Tennis or, to distinguish it from Lawn Tennis, Real Tennis or Royal Tennis. In the USA it is called Court Tennis: in France Jeu de Paume (hand ball): and in Australia Royal Tennis. The various names throw light on the development of the game. Tennis was played in 5th century Tuscany when villagers used to strike balls up and down the streets with bare hands.

In Great Britain, as in France, royal patronage ensured the continued popularity of the game. French Kings in the 16th century and Stuart Kings in the 17th century were enthusiastic players. George IV (1763-1830), Prince Albert (1819-1861) – there is a locker in the changing room at Hampton Court Palace which still bears his name – Edward VII (1842-1910) and George V (1866-1936) have all supported the game.

Lawn Tennis, which derived from Real Tennis in about 1874, is played on a marked-out surface without side or end walls. Court Tennis, to use the American name for Tennis, indicates that Tennis is played in a specially court with walls on four sides.

No two tennis courts are exactly alike. That at Hampton Court is marginally wider than others. Other differences occur in the width or angle of the penthouse roof above the corridor and in the width of the tambour.

The number of courts has risen in the last thirty years. There are now 27 in Britain, 10 in the USA, 3 in France and 6 in Australia. Despite there being no more than a few thousand Tennis players in the world, they make up in keeness for any lack in numbers. There are amateur, professional open and world competitions.

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