While games resembling tennis date back to the 14th century -- most of which involved nothing more than striking a ball with your hands -- Major Walter Clopton Wingfield is credited with patenting the first modern version of the game in 1874. Wingfield’s "lawn tennis" did not completely resemble the sport we know today, but it did introduce a written set of rules along with the first racket.
Wingfield's Claim to Fame
Born in 1833, Major Wingfield served as a career cavalry officer in the King's Own 1st Dragoon Guards during the Victorian Era of the British Empire. While he traveled to China and India during his 10 years of active duty, he retired to the London area with a large amount of financial savings. Wingfield's money afforded him the luxury of time -- a gift he used to create the sport of lawn tennis. With the 1874 publication and patent of the complete set of rules, Wingfield offered Britain a game that could be played anywhere -- not just on lawns -- with minimal equipment. While the game has changed, Wingfield's most notable contribution to the sport remains an essential part of the sport -- the tennis racket. Heavy and cumbersome with a small head and curved frame, the original wooden racket lacked the technology that benefits modern versions. But it did create the foundation for subsequent innovation and the advancement of the sport itself.