Did You Know? How ‘The Game of Palm’ Became Tennis

SHAHEED ALAM – At present, I can confidently say that tennis is one of the toughest sports out there due to the physical, mental, technical and tactical aspects of the game. At the recently concluded Australian Open, Men’s Champion Novak Djokovic spent a total of 14hrs 4mins on the court throughout the entire tournament, across 7 matches. That is an average of around 2 hours per match.

However, was it always like this when tennis began? Certainly not.

Before rackets there were palms

When tennis first appeared in the 12th century, it was played with the palm of the hand instead of a racket. This continued up till the 16th century when rackets were introduced by the French and English, although it was unlikely that the games then tested anyone’s endurance or speed.

A cartoon of tennis when it was played during the 12th century without the use of rackets.
(c) Stock image from Google

Evolution of Tennis with Technology

It is generally accepted that Tennis has evolved tremendously since the time of Rod Laver and Ken Rosewell (1950s-1960s). Along with the leaps and bounds made in racket technology came increasingly challenging tennis matches, both physically and mentally. For instance, the increased size of the ball dramatically slowed down the court speed court and this indirectly had a knock-on effect of turning tennis matches into an endurance challenge.

Left : Bjorn Borg vs John McEnroe at 1981 final
Right: Roger Federer vs Novak Djokovic at 2015 final

Notice the difference in the court. The picture of the left shows a lot more dead grass at the net area compared to the picture on the right, due to the evolution of tennis.
(c) Stock image from Google

Different playing styles and eras

With all these modifications to the game, players had to adapt by changing their playing style as well. With the ‘Serve and Volley’ game pretty much long gone (except for a few players), today’s game focuses more on the baseline.

(c) Stock image from Google

# Hit It Like Shaheed

With the sport itself having evolved through time, I can’t help but look back on my own journey too.

From a 5-year-old kid to a National Tennis Player. I’ve been very privileged to be able to have the opportunity to hold a racket and don the national outfit because tennis is a fantastic sport for all!

(c) ONEathlete

I’m especially excited to be able to don a pair of tennis shoes from Asics’s Tennis line and have my trusty Babalot racket on the Tennis court with me today!

Shaheed preparing to serve during his training (c) ONEathlete

Both brands have also evolved tremendously over the years and developed a number of products and prototypes that have gradually improved in response to how end-users (athletes) and the demands of the sport have changed with time.

This is something I, as an athlete, value and see in many of those who stay on top of their game. The key is to stay ahead of the curve and adapt with the times.

(c) ONEathlete

I highly encourage anyone to take up tennis as a sport because it is a great form of exercise. While it may be challenging to be hitting rallies from the get-go, once you get used to it, you will be having tons of fun with your friends in no time! While at it, remember to grab a pair of Asics Tennis shoe and Babalot racket – they might just give you the head start you need!

Shaheed Alam is a ONEathlete and Ambassador for Asics (Tennis) and Babalot. The tennis prodigy had his first match at the age of 5, and progressed to the Singapore Sports School, before becoming the first male Singaporean to win the ITF Junior Singles Title.