The Origins of Tennis, Rules, Prize money & amazing facts

By Sportarsh Team
16 Min Read

Hello readers and welcome to sportarsh. If this is your first time visiting our website, then kindly click on the bell icon you see on your screens to get instant updates from us. In this very article, we shall take an in-depth look at the origin (history) of tennis; including the rules governing the game , prize money, tennis equipments as well as Tennis’s prestigious tournaments. So without saying much let’s delve right into it below.

Background of Tennis:


At the mention of tennis, notable competitions like Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open come to mind. But amazingly, the game’s root dates back to the 12th century in northern France, where the French invented a game called jeu de paume. You might be wondering what “jeu de paume” means, it simply means “game of the palm“. Just like the name implies, the game was actually played with the palm of the hand. King of France “Louis X” at the time was a huge fan of the game and is believed to be the first known tennis player by name in the history of the competition.

At first, the game was played with bare palms but as it evolved, leather gloves came into existence. It was played this way for several centuries until the invention of racquets in the 16th century. The invention of racquets gave birth to Tennis. One might ask “who even came up with the word tennis?”, the word tennis is derived from the French word “tenez”; which means ”to hold”. This had to be said to your opponent if you wanted to serve. The game became so popular that it spread to England where it underwent further modifications. These modifications led to the creation of lawn tennis which could be played outside on a grass court ( lawn). More on this is further discussed below;

Invention of modern day Tennis ( Lawn Tennis)

The inventor of modern day tennis has been disputed on several occasions but many sports historians agree that Major Walter Clopton Wingfield is the true inventor of the modern day tennis we know of today. His version of tennis which he called “sphairistikè” came with his own rules and a playing kit ( boxes). Items in the boxes included two net posts, rackets, a net and two Indian balls. He took out a patent on his game in 1874 and went on a quest to popularize his game all over the world. The pictures seen below represents Wingfield himself along with his playing kits. Image via

Equipments needed in playing Tennis:

Incase you are interested in playing tennis as a hobby or thinking of playing it professionally as a career, then there are some equipments you need to know. These equipments are light weight and easy to access even if you are a beginner.


Rackets or Racquets are one of the most important equipments needed by a tennis player. It consists of a handled frame with an open hoop across which a network of strings are stretched tightly. The main purpose or use of a racket is for striking balls. In the early years of the modern game, rackets were made of wood with animal guts or intestines used as strings. But this has since changed with modern technology replacing gut strings with synthetic materials like polyamide and nylon. Interestingly, there are some guidelines manufacturers of rackets must adhere to. These are;

  • The hitting area which is composed or made up of strings must be uniform and flat.
  • The frame of the hitting area must not be more than 74cm in length and 32 centimetres in width.
  • The rackets must not be altered to give an advantage to a particular player. Thus, it must be of fixed shape, size and even weight distribution.
Traditional rackets
(History of tennis) Traditional rackets – image via


The next item or equipment every tennis player must carry along is the tennis ball. In the very beginning tennis balls were made of leather packed or stuffed with wool or feathers and even sometimes hair. But this has changed over the course of the years mainly due to the advancement in technology. These days, the balls are made of hollow vulcanized rubber with a felt coating. The United States were the number one leading manufacturers of the balls, but majority of manufacturing now takes place in the far East. This is mainly due to low labour costs. Just like the rackets, the balls also comes with its own manufacturing guidelines. These are;

  • The ball must have a diameter of 65.41 to 68.58 mm.
  • The ball must be light weight and must weigh between 56.0 and 59.4 g.
Tennis balls


Aside having the right skills or techniques, knowing when and how to select the right shoes help in an overall better performance on the court. You cannot put on just any footwear and head unto the field, but rather you must select a footwear that can give you enough grip so as to avoid slipping. Tennis can be played on a grass surface, clay surface, hard surface as well as a carpet surface. So selecting the right gear can help in your advantage. Thankfully there are many shoes out there meant purposely for playing tennis, and making a selection wouldn’t be such a headache.


Now that you have your rackets, balls and shoes, you will need a bag to put all of them into. Any bag could be used but a more colourful one actually adds to a players brand as they are part of tennis fashion. Other miscellaneous like glasses, caps, bands and bandanas all adds up to the tennis fashion. The more fashionable you are the more likelihood of you attracting major fashion brands for endorsement deals.

Tennis bag

Rules of Tennis

Before I started following tennis I use to watch just for watching sake. I never really understood the game, the only time I got to know a player had won a game was when it was announced on my screens. You reading this tells me you don’t really know much about the sport either. But don’t worry, I shall guide you through all the rules to help you fully understand the game. There are two separate rules for tennis matches. These are , single matches rules and double matches rules so kindly take note. But before we head on to that, here are some general rules you need to know;

  • Foremost, a player must make sure the ball lands within bounds for play to continue. If the ball goes out of bounds, it results in the loss of point for that particular player.
  • Also, players cannot touch the nets or posts or try to cross onto the opponent’s section or half.
  • Players cannot catch the ball or carry it with their rackets
  • A player must not hit the ball twice
  • A player must ensure the ball fully crosses the net before returning it.
  • Any player who fails to return a live ball before it bounces twice looses the point
  • When a ball hits a player, it constitutes a penalty .
  • Also, if a verbal abuse takes place or occurs during play, it results in a penalty. A penalty is also given when a racket leaves a player’s hands.
  • Any ball that bounces on the lines of boundary doesn’t constitute a penalty.
  • After a serve, the ball must bounce first before the opponent can return it.

Single Tennis Game Rules Vs Double Tennis Game Rules

Now that you know of the general rules. It’s time to know the difference between the single and double tennis game rules. For starters there isn’t much differences between the two. The only difference is the serving order and court size. For doubles, rules are slightly changed to make room for an extra player on either side of the of the court. Apart from this the rules are practically the same as single matches.

Table below shows the differences
Single Tennis Game RulesDouble Tennis Game Rules
1.The court size used in singles measures 27 feet wide by 78 feet long.1. The court size used in doubles measures 36 feet wide by 78 feet long.
2. Before a game begins, a toss is made and the winner gets to serve first for the entire duration of the first game. When the first game ends, the loser during the coin toss gets to serve for the entire duration of the second game.2. Just like the singles, the winner of the toss decides which team serves first. Since there are two players in each team, one will serve for the entire duration of the first game and the other will serve for the entire duration of the second game.
3. When a game ends in an odd score, opponents switch sides of the court3. When a game ends in an odd score, teams switch sides of the court. But if a player hasn’t served yet from the first game, he will have to serve. After serving the opponent of the second team gets to serve. It goes on and on.
4. A tie break rule is needed if a game ends in 6-6. The one who reaches 7 points first with a lead of at least two ,wins the set.
5. Singles matches are often played to the best of three sets.5. Doubles matches are often played to the best of 5 sets.

How Tennis Games are Officiated

We cannot talk about the rules without talking about the officiation. They both go hand in hand and as such it’s very important you get briefed about it. In tennis there are four types of officials who help in the smooth running of the game. They are;

  • The Chair Umpire
  • The Line Umpire
  • The Referee
  • and The Chief Umpire

Each of the above mentioned officials have their own roles to play. For the chair Umpire, he/she sits in a raised chair to one side of the court. The chair Umpire is the guardian of the rules and has the right to overrule a line judge and a net judge. The line Umpire, works together with the chair Umpire to ensure the match runs in a fair manner. Now we move to the Referee, he/she is usually located off the pitch and is the final authority about tennis rules. The referee has the power to overrule the decision of the chair Umpire. The chief umpire, acts as the laison officer between the officials and the tournament staff.

Tennis’s most prestigious Tournaments and Prize money

Have you ever wondered how much a tennis player earns after winning a tournament? If you have , then this section answers your question. Tennis players are not on weekly or monthly salaries, but instead they make their money by way of tournaments. The progression you make in a tournament determines how much you will earn. There are several tennis tournaments out there but the one with a huge prize money is the Grand Slam Tournament. The Grand slam tournament is further discussed below;

Grand Slam Tournament

The Grand slam tournament is the most prestigious event in the history of tennis. It comprises of four competitions which is played yearly and in chronological order. They are as follows, the Australian Open, the French open, Wimbledon, and the Us open. These tour events carries the largest prize money and the highest amount of ranking points for the eventual champion. The table below shows how much a player earns after winning a tennis competition. Incase you want more details on the Tennis Grand Slam, you can check it out here.

CompetitionsDurationPrize MoneySurface
Australian OpenJanuary to February(A$55,000,000) as at 2018Hard
French OpenMay to June(€39,197,000) as at 2018Clay
WimbledonJune to July(£31,600,000) as at 2017Grass
US OpenAugust to September(US$50,400,000) as at 2017Hard
Biggest Grand Prizes in Tennis history


I hope the write up above on the history of tennis was able to answer most of your questions. If you have any other topic you would want us to cover, kindly notify us in our comments section below. All references which aided in the writing of the article ( history of tennis) is given underneath. Thank you for reading.


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