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Tennis

Updated:2008-06-03 17:41 | Source:beijing2008.cn

Sydney, 22 September 2000. Alex Corretja (ESP). Credit: Getty Images/Jamie Squire

When Irishman John Boland travelled to Athens for the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, he had no idea he would return home with the gold medal in tennis. But then, he had no idea he would compete either - he went as a spectator.

Times have changed dramatically for Olympic tennis since then. Today's Olympic tennis players include some of the highest-profile athletes in the world. Accustomed to five-star hotels and high-stakes prize money, at the Olympic Games they will bunk in the Olympic Village and compete for nothing but a gold medal.

Tennis was dropped from the Olympic programme after 1924 amid turmoil over such issues as where to draw the line between amateurism and professionalism, and it didn't return as a medal sport until 1988. Today, Olympic competition includes men's and women's singles and men's and women's doubles.

Discipline's origin

The earliest recognisable relative to tennis, as we know it today, was found in 11th century France, with a game called "jeu de paume". Played in a monastery courtyard, the game used the walls and sloping roofs as part of the court and the palm of the hand to hit the ball. The first implement that we would call a racquet was used in the 16th century, prompting the inaugural tennis "boom".

In 19th century England, there was an abundance of well-manicured croquet lawns, and the combination of those venues with the already existing framework for a racquet game resulted in the birth of the modern game of lawn tennis. In 1875, the All England Croquet Club needed to raise funds and designated certain croquet lawns to be used for lawn tennis, as it was beginning to overtake croquet in the popularity stakes.

In 1913, lawn tennis was becoming increasingly popular world-wide, and it seemed natural that the existing National Tennis Associations should join forces to ensure the game was uniformly structured. An international conference was held between 12 nations in Paris, at which the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF) evolved. The inaugural nations were Austral-Asia (representing Australia and New Zealand), Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, the Soviet Union, France, South Africa, Sweden and Switzerland. Spain could not attend, but confirmed its approval. In 1923, the Annual General Meeting in Paris drew up the official ILTF Rules of Tennis, which were implemented from 1 January 1924. In 1977, the ILTF 'dropped' the word, "Lawn", to take on its present name, the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

Olympic history

During the Olympics, men and women compete in singles and doubles events. There are no mixed doubles on the current Olympic programme, although it was an event in 1900, 1906, 1912, 1920, and 1924. In addition, Olympic tennis is now open to all players, thus many of the world's great professionals compete.

Opening ceremony of Beijing Olympics