Updated: Jul 26
06 June , 2020. For many years it was considered lost. It was a stroke of luck that led to its rediscovery a few years ago in France – the original racket of the founder of today´s game of tennis, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield. The exceptional find shows how rackets moved from Real to Lawn Tennis.
A brief historical review. Until mid 19th century, tennis was mainly practiced in courtyards or indoor spaces. Imported from France, the British called the game "royal" or "real" tennis. Everything changed in the year 1874. On 23rd February for that year, Welshman Major
Walter Clopton Wingfield was granted his famous British patent No. 685, entitled "Sphairistikè ", a Greek name for today's lawn tennis or, more simply said, tennis. Wingfield established rules with his patent which amongst others included dimensions of the court and
A unique testimony to this time, the racket was commissioned after 1875/76 by Edward, Prince of Wales – the eldest son of Queen Victoria, later to become King Edward VII – following his return from a journey to India. Edward had the piece made in recognition of Wingfield´s contributions to the young, emerging sport. The racket´s handle was inlaid with Indian ivory brought back by the prince from his trip.
King Edward VII, who had always maintained a friendly relationship with Wingfield, later appointed him a Member of the Royal Victorian Order, MVO, for "exceptional, important and personal services to the sovereign royal family" in the year 1902.
It is not known exactly how today's exhibit then made its way back to the royal family. It is documented that it survived the turmoil of the First and Second World Wars within the walls of Buckingham Palace and was presented to the Slazenger/Dunlop company by the royal family after World War II. For a long time, its exact whereabouts were unknown. Eventually, it was rediscovered in France and is today an integral part of the Berlin Tennis Gallery.
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