When you watch the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games, and a host of other international sports competitions that take place throughout the year, do you ever wonder when and how such games began?

Take tennis for example. I too, like many others, love tennis. However, I had never perceived that tennis started such a long time ago! According to “Ancient Beginnings” on the Cliff Richards Tennis website.

The Ancient Egyptians and the people that followed actually played ball games as part of their religious ceremonies. These traditions and the whole concept of the ball game spread into Europe in the 8th century, the influence spread by the Moors whose Empire reached into Southern France. As strange as it may seem, it was the meeting of this eastern culture with Christianity which eventually gave rise to tennis!

During the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries “real tennis” (royal tennis), which was played indoors, became the fashionable sport of kings and noblemen. Later, tennis spread throughout Europe. It became particularly popular in England and also spread to Spain, Italy, Holland, Switzerland and Germany.

Today, tennis remains extremely popular. Old champions like Boris Becker, John McEnroe, Steffi Graff, among many others, are remembered fondly, and new champions are constantly appearing on the scene. Tennis is played in almost every country in the world and can be enjoyed by anyone who wants to keep fit and have fun. Tennis uses almost every muscle group, especially in the legs and arms. It provides an excellent workout and the wide range in motion increases flexibility.

How Tennis Is Played

The average tennis court is about 78 feet long and 27 feet wide for single play, or 36 feet wide for double play. A singles game is played with two people and a doubles game is played with four people. A net runs across the middle of the court.

The object of tennis is to keep the ball in play once it has been served, that is, once it has been hit over the net. Each player on each side attempts to hit the ball and send it back over top of the net to the opposing side.

Scoring is different in tennis than in any other game. Each point is not counted as a single point. Rather, the scores are kept track of as follows: the first game point is 15, while the second game point is 30. The next game point made is 40, and one more point is needed from there in order for either side to win the game. So a tennis game actually consists of four points.

When a player or a team wins six games, it is said that a set is won. However, the winners must have won at least two more games than the opponent has won.

The Health Benefits of Tennis

Playing tennis regularly is good for the body, the mind, and the heart. It also produces “physical, physiologic and psychological benefits.” Playing tennis burns calories and reduces blood pressure and stress. These benefits, in turn, reduce the risk of developing heart disease, which is the number-one killing disease among adults.

When you play tennis, make sure that you drink lots of water between play and to try not to play when the sun is at its strongest.

Did You Know?

Tennis balls are made of rubber

The pressure inside a tennis ball is 26.7 psi

The fastest service ever measured was one of 163.6 mph by American William Tatem Tilden (1893-1953) in 1931.

The first Wimbledon Championship was in 1877 and was watched by some 200 spectators. In 1999 it was broadcast to 174 countries, with an estimated global audience of 1 billion people.

The first tennis balls were made of leather stuffed with wool or hair. They were hard enough to cause a serious injury and could even kill someone!

By Idris Tawfiq**