How often do you, starting to be interested in any sport, want to know the history of its emergence and development? After all, as a rule, many interesting and sometimes funny facts are stored in history. And besides, what a true fan does not want to expand their knowledge of their favorite sport? Perhaps we should go into this topic.
About the history of tennis
From ancient historical sources it is known that the Aztecs of America, the inhabitants of ancient Greece and Rome, ancient Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, Persia and China were fond of playing with a small ball, which was either hand palm or wide stick or leather belt.
The famous Italian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo in the painting “Death of Hyacinth” (1751) in the lower right corner depicted a racket with balls. Certainly the ancient Greek mythical hero did not die from grueling tennis battles, but from hitting the head, which threw Apollo during the contest between them. But, nevertheless, the plot of Tiepolo suggests that the painter wanted to emphasize the ancient origin of tennis.
For several centuries, historians wanted to establish a direct connection between these games with ball games of the early Middle Ages, but the lack of documentary evidence most likely leaves this question unanswered. Currently, researchers from the origins of tennis tend to think that the games of antiquity have gone through a slow evolutionary process with many transformations.
But perhaps all these deep thoughts can be left for big minds. Let’s talk about the closest to us in time, the first version of tennis we all know today.
Many consider tennis an English game, but the name is French. This undoubtedly indicates that the British borrowed the game in France. Where both aristocrats and clerics have long loved a simple but entertaining game in which one player threw a small ball, and the second tried to beat the ball to the server’s side so as not to allow the ball to touch the ground in its half of the field. The server usually warned the opponent with a shout: “Tenez!”, Which in French means “Hold!”. The name of the site, “court”, also comes from the French word “sour” (“yard”).
The monks played ball in the monastery courtyard. Well-off people built special grounds, enclosed by walls, or closed halls for ball games. In the royal palace at Versailles there was also a spacious ball-playing room. June 20, 1789 the game began here, the stakes in which turned out to be unexpectedly large. Louis XVI brought together the representatives of the three estates in order to organize a parliament. Parliament was thought to make a deliberative body in the absolute monarch. But even the introduction of this appearance of freedom of speech was hampered in every way. Dissatisfied with the royal politics of the evasion, the representatives of the third estate gathered in the ball hall and vowed not to disperse until they received consent to draft a constitution restricting the power of the king. The hall was spacious enough to hold all the Protestants, and the doors were strong enough to withstand the siege for some time.
But against the expectations of the rebellious deputies did not disperse. On the contrary, the king accepted their demands and made concessions. And on July 14, the rebels of Paris took the Bastille by storm. After that, a completely different game began. Like balls, flew cut off guillotine heads. Throughout the 19th century, the French shook the continent with revolutions and wars. The British also played in the revolution a little earlier than the French and pretty cool for this fun.
But the French ball game they liked. Tennis caught on in the British Isles along with other ball games: football, cricket and golf. It got caught so much that in the end it became a national sport.
Substantial Englishmen staked their priority in the invention of tennis, fixing the rules of the game. In December 1873, these rules in the form in which they are known now, issued by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield (1833−1912). Since “French” tennis was already known in England under the name “real tennis”, Wingfield called the game “lawn-tennis” (or “tennis on the lawn”).
The game was invented to entertain guests who gathered in the estate of Major Wingfield. Guests ran with racquets for a ball on a short-cut grass lawn. Hence the name Wingfield patented. The major also patented the rules of the game and the inventory for it. Commercial benefits, however, did not bring him a patent, but provided fame.
Thanks to tennis, Dwight Filley Davis (1879−1945) became more widely known. He lived the life of a successful politician. The pinnacle of D. Davis’s career can be considered the post of Minister of Defense in the government of President Coolidge (1925–1929) and the post of Governor General of the Philippines under the next president, G. Hoover (1929–1932). But now it’s not even clear to many that such presidents were in the United States. Who will remember the names of the then government officials? In those years, few were interested in their names. In 1932, D. Davis arrived in Paris. The American ambassador invited him to the session of the Chamber of Deputies of the National Assembly of France. The Ambassador introduced D. Davis as the former Governor-General of the Philippines. Deputies did not respond. The Ambassador continued his speech and introduced D. Davis as former US Secretary of Defense. But when the ambassador finished: “This is the same Monsieur Davis who set up the Davis Cup,” the hall burst out with genuine applause.
All the French knew about the Davis Cup history, since the French tennis players had been holding this trophy since 1927. A few years later, D. Davis told this story with his family and concluded his story with the conclusion: “Well, now you understand what is the most important accomplishment in my life”.
On February 7, 1900, a graduate of Harvard University and an inveterate tennis player D. Davis, of course, did not try to gain world renown by ordering a gilded pure silver bowl weighing just over 6 kg to one of the Boston jewelry companies. Dwight Davis in his life was a very calm and reasonable person, but this did not prevent him on the court from behaving aggressively, fighting to the last, especially his height of 183 cm contributed to him in this. In addition, he was left-handed, which generally allowed him to achieve high results. But now is not about that.
The height of the bowl was 33 cm, the upper diameter was 45 cm. The jeweler decorated the top edge of the bowl with a floral pattern. Because of this pattern, or because of the thick and wide legs, the bowl was often called the “salad bowl.” For the cup D. Davis paid out of his own pocket 700 dollars. This cup was supposed to be a prize in a match between teams of American and British tennis players. Competition regulations also developed D. Davis. An invitation to the UK has already been sent and accepted. The guests arrived by boat. They were skeptical and lost the match completely, with a score of 3:0. Partly justify the loss of the British can terrible heat, which stood during the match. D. Davis was the captain of the American winning team.
The next tournament took place two years later, in 1902, and the Americans won it again. After 1902, tournaments began to be held annually. Since 1904, in addition to the teams of Great Britain and the United States, teams from other countries began to take part in it. The Davis Cup Tournament (as it became known after D. Davis’s death in 1945) became the most popular tennis tournament in the world, a kind of world championship in this sport.
The Davis Cup itself is currently the oldest sports award in the world. First, the names of the tournament winners were engraved right on the cup. But in 1920, all free space was taken. Then D. Davis spent another $ 400 and ordered a cup stand. On the stand began to fix the plates with the names of the winners. Then, when the free space ended here, the next stand was ordered. Now the cup is on a three-story stand, a bit like a big wedding cake.
- Davis participated in the Olympic Games of 1904, but he did not become an Olympic champion in either singles or doubles. But, as mentioned above, he began a fairly successful career as a politician, first in the hometown of St. Louis, and then at the federal level.
The American weekly “Time” traditionally places in each issue an article devoted to the “man of the week”. On December 15, 1924, he wrote about Dwight Davis and placed his portrait on the cover. Tellingly, the article is not about Davis the politician, but about Davis the tennis player. On the cover, he is depicted in a striped T-shirt.