Tennis fever

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Are your days and nights currently taken up with following a little yellow ball as it bounces from side to side across the net? If you are retired and living in Melbourne, January dishes up a veritable feast for sports fans either courtside or from the comfort of your lounge room.

Last year, 743,667 tennis fans attended the Australian Open and millions around the globe tuned in to watch the kings and queens of the game battle it out at Melbourne Park for the Grand Slam title.

This year, records are expected to be broken again. So far, its been an exciting tournament.

There’s something about Alex

Australian fans are thrilled to see a new generation of Aussie tennis players rising the ranks. For the first time since 2014, Australia has five players in the last 32 at Melbourne Park.

The three Alex’s - Alex de Minaur, Alex Bolt and Alexei Popyrin exude old fashioned charm with their sportsmanship, manners and great play. Ashleigh Barty and Kimberly Birrell have been flying the flag in the women’s competition and the next week promises some excellent match ups.

A dangerous sport for Kings

Tennis has a much debated and very colourful history that stretches back to before the 11th century. Did you know that in 1316 Louis X was the first French King to die of tennis related causes? As a keen player of jeu de paume (game of the palm), Louis became notable as the first person to construct an indoor tennis court. He died after catching a chill following extended play on the court. Then, in 1498 Charles VIII of France succumbed to a head injury acquired while attending a game of real tennis.

James I of Scotland was not immune to the perils of tennis mania either: he was captured and killed when he was unable to escape through a drain that had been blocked to prevent the loss of tennis balls at Blackfriars, Perth in 1473.

These days, tennis is not nearly as dangerous - although with serves of up to 240km per hour at this year’s Australian Open, it is not without risk!

A brief history

Some scholars propose that tennis evolved as a handball variation of medieval football played in the cloisters or courtyards of monasteries during the early Middle Ages. Illustrations indicate that the game was played by two teams of three of more players per side, using the palm of their hands to return volleys or rebounds.

By the 16th century, rackets had replaced the palm and wooden balls were replaced with leather bound orbs. Over time, not much changed apart from the size of the head of the racket which grew along with the popularity of lawn tennis.

Following the industrial revolution, tennis saw the introduction of metal framed rackets, but they were not as popular as their lighter, wooden framed peers. It wasn’t until another century later, in 1967 when Wilson Sporting Goods marketed a metal and nylon strung racket that was lighter than wooden framed rackets, that metal framed rackets became popular.

Today, rackets are light in weight, with a wood, steel or graphite elliptical frame, with a network of cord, nylon or catgut strings. Balls became lighter and constructed of gas-filled rubber. The fluorescent yellow of tennis balls today, was driven by appeasing television audiences back in 1972.

A lawn tennis trend emerged in the 1870s transforming the court. According to the International Tennis Federation’s History of Tennis Courts, Major Walter Wingfield patented his version of grass tennis in 1873. The shape of the court was in an hourglass design tapering at the net, and has since evolved to the longer, rectangular shape it is today.

By the late 19th century lawn tennis became the preferred sport over croquet, with croquet courts being offered up to host lawn tennis tournaments.

Hard acrylic courts of today emerged alongside engineering technology in the 1940s. Today, tennis is played on grass courts, hard courts, carpeted courts, and clay courts.

A social game

RCA Villages Active Living program encourages residents to stay connected to social and fitness activities through life. Many residents living in RCA Villages play social tennis.

Tennis can be played at any level and at any age; it is not a contact sport and provides wonderful social opportunities. Competitive players need not hang up their rackets as the years advance. Tennis Seniors Victoria provides a safe and welcoming community environment in which to promote tennis as an enjoyable and healthy sport for all players aged 35+.

To see what’s happening at the 2019 Australian Open click here.

Find more information about living in a RCA Village.

More information about seniors’ tennis can be found here.

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