According to wall paintings done by the ancient Greek Themistocles, forms of tennis were played as early as 500 B.C. Yet the French usually get the credit for inventing tennis during the 1100s. They called the game "Jeu de Paume" (hand ball) because players used their hands instead of a racquet. Later players used gloves or short bats to hit the ball. The first Jeu de Paume courts were found in courtyards or near castles or monastery squares. Tennis became so popular in France during the thirteenth century that there were reportedly 1,800 tennis courts. During the sixteenth century, French kings played the game, and in the seventeenth century English kings also became tennis enthusiasts.
In England during the early nineteenth century, the wealthy played tennis on the lawns of their homes. Tennis became a serious sport in the early 1870s, and the All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club, in Wimbledon, London, held the first tennis championships in July 1877.
Further Information: History of Tennis. [Online] Available http://www.realtenis.gbrit.com/history. htm, October 23, 2000; Sanchez Vicario, Arantxa. The Young Tennis Player. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1996.