Tennis

 
There has been much dispute over the invention of modern tennis, but the officially recognized centennial of the game in 1973 commemorated its introduction by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield in 1873.
 
He published the first book of rules that year and took out a patent on his game in 1874, although historians have concluded that similar games were played earlier and that the first tennis club was established by the Englishman Harry Gem and several associates in Leamington in 1872. Wingfield's court was of the hourglass shape and may have developed from badminton.
The hourglass shape, stipulated by Wingfield in his booklet "Sphairistiké, or Lawn Tennis," may have been adopted for patent reasons since it distinguished the court from ordinary rectangular courts.
At the time, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) wasthe governing body of real tennis, whose rules it had recently revised. After J.M. Heathcote, a distinguished real tennis player, developed a better tennis ball of rubber covered with white flannel, the MCC in 1875 established a new, standardized set of rules for tennis.
 
Meanwhile, the game had spread to the United States in the 1870s. Mary Outerbridge of New York has been credited with bringing a set of rackets and balls to her brother, a director of the Staten Island Cricket and Baseball Club. But research has shown that William Appleton of Nahant,Massachusetts, may have owned the first lawn tennis set and that his friends James Dwight and Fred R. Sears popularized the game.
 
An important milestone in the history of tennis was the decision of the All England Croquet Club to set aside one of its lawns at Wimbledon for tennis, which soon proved so popular that the club changed its name to the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club. In 1877 the club decided to hold a tennis championship, and a championship subcommittee of three was appointed. It decided on a rectangular court 78 feet (23.8 metres) long by 27 feet (8.2 metres) wide.
 
They adapted the real tennis method of scoring—15, 30, 40, game—and allowed the server one fault (i.e., two chances to deliver a proper service on each point). These major decisions remain part of the modern rules. Twenty-two entries were received, and the first winner of the Wimbledon Championships was Spencer Gore. In 1878 the Scottish Championships were held, followed in 1879 by the Irish Championships.
 
There were several alterations in some of the other rules (e.g., governing the height of the net) until 1880, when the All England Club and the MCC published revised rules that approximate very closely those still in use. The All England Club was the dominant authority then, the British Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) not being formed until 1888. In 1880 the first U.S. championship was held at the Staten Island Cricket and Baseball Club. The victor was an Englishman, O.E. Woodhouse.
 
The popularity of the game in the United States and frequent doubts about the rules led to the foundation in 1881 of the U.S. National Lawn Tennis Association, later renamed the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association and, in 1975, the ,U.S. Tennis Association (USTA). Under its auspices, the first official U.S. national championship, played under English rules, was held in 1881 at the Newport Casino, Newport, Rhode Island. The winner, Richard Sears, was U.S. champion for seven consecutive years.
 
Tennis had taken firm root in Australia by 1880, and the first Australian Championships were played in 1905. The first national championships in New Zealand were held in 1886. In 1904 the Lawn Tennis Association of Australasia (later of Australia) was founded.
 
The first French Championships were held at the Stade Français in 1891, but it was an interclub tournament that did not become truly international until 1925; the French Federation of Lawn Tennis was established in 1920. Other national championships were inaugurated in Canada (1890), South Africa (1891), Spain (1910), Denmark (1921), Egypt (1925), Italy (1930), and Sweden (1936).
 
In 1884 a women's championship was introduced at Wimbledon, and women's national championships were held in the United States starting in 1887.