Tennis has a long-standing history steeped in tradition. Yet, there are two main events that seemed to set the sport apart from any other in the hearts and minds of those who enjoy watching and playing it.
One was the invention-vulcanized rubber that allowed real tennis to take the lead from lawn tennis – a popular gentleman’s sport of the 18th century.
The other was the match between female tennis star Billie Jean King and her male counterpart, Bobby Riggs. Her wondrous victory over Riggs gave female tennis stars the respect they had long sought.
Until vulcanized rubber allowed tennis balls to be made in the 1850’s for the outdoor play we enjoy today, most tennis matches were enjoyed on indoor courts. Much like today’s racquetball, “real tennis” as it was known uses the angled walls of a real tennis court to strategically hit and return the ball to their opponents.
Tennis as we know it today was first called “lawn tennis,” and made its debut among the higher classes in the mid 1800’s, as way for courting couples to enjoy a real sport without distressing the ladies.
After Charles Goodyear, of Goodyear tire fame, invented vulcanized rubber, rubber tennis balls were introduced in play instead of the wads of wool, hair, wool, or cork wrapped in leather or string and cloth that had been previously used.
Since these new rubber balls didn’t need a wall to bounce off of, the game was quickly taken outside where people could enjoy it in the fresh air and sunshine. New rules were quickly introduced to compensate for changes in the speed and style of the game on these new lawn courts.
Walter Clopton Wingfield is considered the father of modern tennis, or lawn tennis, having patented the game in 1874 with the United States Patent Office, although many claim that others actually introduced the game to the masses, with Wingfield taking formal credit.
It didn’t take long for tennis to become a popular hit. Tennis clubs soon opened, followed by the first tennis championships in 1877 at Wimbledon
Billie Jean King versus Bobby Riggs:
When Billie Jean King defeated of Bobby Riggs in 1973 tennis for women changed forever! True, women has been playing for years, and making money at it, but until King’s upset over Riggs, women couldn’t make near the financial gains as men in the field. With her victory came a newfound respect for female players – and handsome playing prizes. Most of today’s female players credit King with having paved the way for their own success.
The game of tennis may have changed since its introduction in the 1800’s, but even today it remains a favorite pastime of young and old alike.
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