Tennis Racket History


Tennis Racquet History

Many historians agree that tennis was first played by monks somewhere in France. It is uncertain if it started in either the 11th or 12 century, but one gruesome fact is that the first so called rackets were made out of human flesh.
It started off more like handball, played first by hitting against a wall, then later over a crude net. (In the southwest of France, people still practice this “ancient” sport). While hitting a ball with bare hand proved a little too uncomfortable after a while, players adopted the use of gloves and more creative folk increased the hitting area and incorporated webbing between their fingers. Others simply used a hard, wooden paddle. The forms varied depending on regions. 
After two or three hundred years of practice, the first device we could legitimately call a racquet came to light, with strings made of gut bound in a wooden frame. The Italians are often credited with this invention. By 1500, racquets were in widespread common in the practice of tennis. The early rackets had a long handle and a small, teardrop-shaped head.
The ancient game had many similarities to today’s game of squash, being it was played indoors, the shape of most rackets had an oval head, like a squash racket and slow balls were used. The greatest difference being tennis rallies were done over a net, not against a wall.
Racquets saw only minor changes between the mid 1800’s and the end of the wooden racket era more than 100 years later. Wooden rackets did get better during these 100 years, with improvements in laminating technology. Sandwiching thin layers of light wood together was a revolution, but they still weighed just under one pound, even with a relative small hitting surface around 65 inches or so.
While these rackets of this era cannot compare to the power and technology of today’s tennis rackets, the evolution from its first days did come a long way.

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