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Origins of tennis, badminton and racquetball

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Category: Badminton News Published: 01 July 2008
Written by Hits: 1342
The appeal of games that involve hitting an object back and forth with rackets goes back a long time. Speedminton may be the latest innovation, but it draws from tennis, badminton and racquetball. Here's a brief look at the origins of those sports:


Some say tennis was invented by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. Although there is no archaeological evidence, there are some words — Tinnis, an Egyptian city along the Nile, and "rahat," an Arabic word for palm or hand that may be related to "racket" — that could be a link.

However, many historians trace the game to French monks who began playing a form of handball against monastery walls or over a rope strung across the courtyard in the 11th and 12th centuries.

By the 13th century, nobility had picked up the game and promoted the building of special courts. England's Henry VII is counted among the early proponents of the sport.

The racket as we know it came along in the early 1500s, but early balls were covered in cork. Not until the invention of vulcanized rubber in 1850 did "bouncier" balls come along.

In 1874, equipment and rules similar to the modern game were patented in London by Walter Clopton Wingfield, a British army officer. The first Wimbledon tournament was held in 1877.

Today the most important tournaments include the Grand Slam, comprised of the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.


The game of hitting a shuttlecock over a net has ancient origins, as well. Similar games called battledore and shuttlecock were played in ancient Greece, India and China. It gets its name from Badminton House in Gloucestershire, England, the home of the Duke of Beafort, where the game was played in the 19th century.

The first badminton club in the United States was formed in 1878 in New York, and according the the American Badminton Association, became "a weekend meeting place for New York's society leaders."

Popularity of the sport soared in the 1930s, spurred on by the increased number of clubs that offered instruction and the adoption of the sport by Hollywood celebrities such as James Cagney, Bette Davis, Boris Karloff, Douglas Fairbanks, Ginger Rogers and Joan Crawford.


Racquetball was invented in 1949 by a tennis pro who lived in Greenwich, Conn., named Joe Sobek. Sobek wanted a game that was like tennis but was played indoors. He combined elements of squash and handball and developed a racket modeled after those used in platform tennis.

In 1981, the first Racquetball World Championship was help, and racquetball became an Olympic sport in 1982.

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