The history of Tennis

Tennis is a ball sport for two players (singles) or pairs (doubles), in which a ball with an average diameter of 67 mm (usually yellow with white line) must be played with a racket over a net.


Tennis was already played by the elite in the late Middle Ages. In its contemporary form, it originates from France and has been played since 1873. Its name is derived from the French word “tenez!”.

In tennis, the ball must be hit over the net into the opponent’s half. The aim is to make it impossible for the opponent(s) to return the ball in the same way. The sport is practiced both recreational and competitively. Tennis players are generally members of tennis associations.

In every tennis season there are four major tournaments, the so-called grand slam tournaments. The Australian Open is played in January, the Roland Garros clay tournament in May and June, the Wimbledon grass tournament in June and July, and finally the US Open in August and September.


An old print from 1615 by Chrispijn van de Passe shows a tennis court, where, in addition to tennis balls, coins can also be seen. This print confirms the theory that money was played a long time ago. So a match was a battle for a “bet”. Since the currency in the Middle Ages was 60 cents, playing for a quarter per point yielded the scores 15, 30 and 45 cents and finally the game. Today the 45 has been replaced by 40 (or the 5 has worn away), but in texts from the 15th century the 45 still occurs.

Another common explanation is that the points of the game were indicated on a clock. The clock was divided into four equal pieces to indicate the four points to be won per game. So the pointer was first set at 15, then at 30, then at 45 and finally at 60.

A tie (40-40) is also called a “deuce”. It is said that this word originated from a corruption of the French term for 40-40: quarante deux. It could also be that the word “deuce” comes from deux le jeu, which means as much as: the game to both. The term deux à jouer (two more to play) is also a possible explanation.

The term “love” (0) probably also has its origin in French. The zero looks like an egg, l’oeuf in French. The corruption of this word has led to “love”.

Integrity of the game

In 2016, the BBC and BuzzFeed News exposed widespread corruption in professional tennis. After the revelations, the international tennis associations (the ATP, the WTA, the ITF and the Grand Slam Board) set up a committee to investigate abuses in tennis. Two years later, the committee published its findings in April 2018. In its report, the committee stated that there are “very significant” issues with integrity and sports betting at the lower levels of professional tennis. Of the 3,200 players the committee surveyed, 16% said they had experience with players betting on matches, 14.5% had experience with match fixing and 35% had experienced this multiple times. As one of the reasons, the committee cited that many professional players at the lower levels earn too little to cover costs, which would make players more easily bribed. Only 350 players would earn enough to withstand match fixing.

In addition, there is often less supervision of the matches at the lower levels. The committee recommended twelve measures to better protect the integrity of sport. These include ending live standings sharing over the internet and tournament sponsorship by gambling companies. According to the investigation, there was no corruption or a cover-up within the tennis associations themselves.

In June 2018, 21 house searches and 13 people were arrested in Belgium under the direction of the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office in an investigation into match fixing by an Armenian-Belgian criminal organization. People were also arrested in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Bulgaria, Slovakia and the United States. Since 2014, the organization is said to have bribed tennis players in the lower classes to forge matches, so that they could be bet on with insider knowledge. The ball started rolling when, in 2015, betting shops notified the Belgian Gaming Commission of Armenians with no apparent income who would be engaged in match fixing in Belgium at the level of futures and challenger tournaments.