Among Wales’ many sporting claims to fame, one of the least known but perhaps most significant is that it was the birthplace of lawn tennis.
In December 1873, Major Walter Clopton Wingfield designed and patented a game which he called sphairistike (from ancient Greek meaning “skill at playing at ball”), initially for the amusement of his guests at a garden party on his estate of Nantclwyd Hall, near Ruthin in Denbighshire.
He combined the necessary equipment – net, posts, rackets, balls – as a kit and sold it along with the rulebook as a game suitable for Victorian gardens.
The Major would surely recognise his game in the modern sport of tennis, and he would probably be delighted at its progress in Wales.
Having begun as a garden pastime for party guests, tennis is now played by 30,000 people in Wales every week, and our client Tennis Wales is working hard to boost that number further.
It’s a task which is helped by several new formats – cardio tennis, timed tennis and touch tennis – which are fun versions of the game, attracting new adults, who may be deterred by the idea of playing a full, conventional match.
And Wales boasts a hugely popular schools competition, which involves some 3,000 year 3 and 4 pupils each year.
Josh Milton is among the top-ranked men in Britain, and Evan Hoyt is rising through the rankings, having helped Greg Rusedski’s GB team win the Junior Davis Cup last year.
Wales boasts several other young players who are among the best for their age group, and the number of regularly competing juniors in Wales has grown from 600 in 2009 to 2,200.
This success is reflected in the annual Tennis Wales awards, which recognise the people and organisations that have contributed most to the sport during the past year.
The winners of the recent 2012 awards included players, volunteers, coaches, clubs and centres, as well as local authorities.
The awards were presented by Professor Laura McAllister, chair of Sport Wales, in a ceremony hosted by TV presenter Arfon Haines Davies, at the Celtic Manor Resort, Newport.
Some of the winners are pictured above, and there are more details here. We like to think the Major was there too.
If you want to play or get inolved in tennis, contact Tennis Wales.
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