The word “Tennis” came into use in English in the mid-13th century from Old French, via the Anglo-Norman Term Tenez. By poet John Gower in his poem titled In Praise of Peace dedicated to King Henry IV and composed in 1400. “Of the tenetz to winne or lese a chase, Mai no lif wite er that the bal be ronne”. (Whether a chase is won or lost at tennis, Nobody can know until the ball is run).
Tennis is mentioned in literature as far back as the Middle Ages. In The Second Shepherd’s Play (c. 1500) shepherds gave three gifts, including a tennis ball, to the newborn Christ. it’s been said that the early tennis balls were made from wool. The Medieval form of tennis is termed as Real Tennis. Real tennis evolved over three centuries from an earlier ball game played around the 12th century in France.
Royal interest in England began with Henry V (1413–22).
Henry VIII (1509–47) made the biggest impact as a young monarch; playing the game with gusto at Hampton Court on a court he built in 1530. It is believed that his second wife Anne Boleyn was watching a game when she was arrested and that Henry was playing when news of her execution arrived. During the reign of James I (1603–25), London had 14 courts.
From the royal courts of England and France to centre court at Wimbledon, from Henry VIII to Federer the great, the game of tennis is steeped in history and tradition. The precise origins of tennis are disputed, with some historians dating it back to Ancient Egypt. According to the official website for “Royal Tennis,” the game was played in the fifth century Tuscany in Italy when villagers struck balls in the street with their bare hands. A more definable version was played by European monks, mostly in Italy and later France, in the 12th century, based around a closed courtyard. Francis I of France, who reigned from 1515-47, was reputedly an enthusiastic player and was responsible for the building of many courts and also promoted the sport among a wider cross section of people.
Yale bowl has tennis in New Haven this week. We had tickets and great seats through my good friend, Lorraine. We got there early, had a bite to eat, Ben and Jerry’s low fat Banana Peanut Butter frozen yogurt… OMG. Walked around picking up trinkets and freebies, when just as the matches were scheduled to begin at 7 pm, it began to rain.
The ticket holders held their breath. Will it stop raining?
Would they get to see tennis? We all stood huddled under the eaves. Finally… the rain stopped some. Wait again… finally… it stopped. A parade of high schoolers came out with squeegees and began drying the courts. Followed by fifteen leaf-blowers, controlled by fifteen high schoolers, finishing the job, when it began to rain again. This time they used towels as well as blowers to dry the courts. It was fascinating to watch this process. So the first match between Caroline Wazniacki of Denmark and Shuai Peng of China began around 9 pm. Shortly after, they announced the second match of the night was cancelled, and moved to the next day. Ms. Wasniacki was favored to win, but readily lost the first set 6-2. Wasniacki was ahead 3-0 in the second set when Peng called the trainer to her chair. We watched in horror while they took her blood pressure. We are big tennis buffs and had never seen this before. Something was very wrong. No… she got up and went back to play, She was serving, ran up, returned the ball, but bent over, possibly dizzy. She tried serving once more, and won her serve. Next thing we knew, she shook her head, called her opponent over, shook hands and retired from play. Peng announced she could not continue. So we spent about five hours in New Haven and watched less than an hour of tennis. Unexpected entertainment, fun of sorts, or was it sort of fun?
William the Conqueror, I wonder if he played tennis? He sure had enough castles to play in. Next week we’ll have a visit there. For now, here’s a fun video to watch if you have a few minutes. Tennis, watch Real Tennis for your enjoyment.
Do you play? What do you ‘love’ about tennis, besides a score of LOVE/40, yours?
Mark, a USPTA colleague, sat behind us at Yale…, it was fun to meet a fellow member United States Professional Tennis Association. The USPTA is the largest and most prestigious professional tennis teaching organization in the country. Teaching and playing tennis was a significant part of my life. They had asked me to execute a painting for their 75th Anniversary. It was wonderful to create the watercolor for them.