A Guide to Tennis
by James Zug
What is Tennis?
Tennis is a small but thriving game. About five thousand people play each week around
- In the U.S. there are ten courts: one court in Boston, Newport, Tuxedo Park (outside New York City), Lakewood, NJ, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Aiken, SC and Chicago and two courts in New York City. There is also a dormant, closed court on Long Island.
- Outside the U.S., tennis is played in three countries: there are two courts in France, five in Australia and twenty-six in Great Britain. There are courts at health clubs,
universities, high schools, royal palaces and private houses. There are also dozens of trinquet courts in southern France that are not standard tennis courts but can be used for a version of tennis.
- In the past two decades, more than a dozen courts around the world have been built from scratch or renovated and returned to play, including Washington (1997), Lakewood (2005), Chicago (2012) and Boston (2013). Courts are being planned in Ireland and Holland, as well as in Charleston, SC.
Tennis has a wonderful history:
Proper tennis has been played for more than eight hundred years. The currently more popular version of the game, lawn tennis, was created in the 1870s in England as an
outdoor version. Since then, the original game of tennis has been dubbed real tennis in Great Britain and Australia, jeu de paume in France and court tennis in the U.S.
In the beginning tennis was a version of handball, played in alleys, courtyards and streets of rural France. By the fifteenth century, the racquet was invented and the current,
asymetric shape of the court—designed to resemble a street with awnings and shop windows and doors.—was standardized. Tennis was a wildly popular game throughout
Renaissance Europe. Almost every King of England got on the tennis court regularly and the oldest standard court today is Hampton Court Palace outside London, officially built in 1530. But tennis was also a game of the masses: Paris had more than 250 courts in the seventeenth century. The game went into decline in the 1700s—thus a court was
available for the French revolutionaries when the Tennis Court Oath was given in 1789.
Tennis in America is a vibrant game. The United States Court Tennis Association manages a rich list of fixtures: there are singles and doubles tournaments on most weekends of the year, including events for juniors, women, pros and team inter-club matches. Many events use the handicap, a method that ensures close, competitive matches. In addition, we send junior teams abroad to play juniors in England and Australia; many individuals go overseas to play in tournaments; and each year we host touring sides from overseas. Both the men’s (founded in 1819) and women’s (1985) world championships are played every two years, as is tennis’ version of the Davis Cup, the Bathurst Cup (1922).
The balls are handmade by the pros: they have a core of cork wrapped with tape and covered with lawn tennis ball felt. They are heavy and take spin differently than a lawn tennis ball, so players usually hit underspin or sidespin rather than topspin. The racquets are wooden and made by either Grays in England or Harrow in the U.S.