The racket sport of tennis is already world famous played by millions recreationally or professionally and is equally a very popular spectator sport. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is the highest sanctioning authority and world governing body for the sport, first established in 1913 as the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF). With a global presence, ITF is affiliated with over 200 national tennis associations and six regional associations. An American lawyer, Charles Duane Williams, born in 1860 in Pennsylvania, is widely regarded as the prime mover behind the formation of ILTF. The federation was established in Paris at the headquarters of the Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques and was attended by twelve national associations. Three nations could not attend but were included in the distribution of voting rights. The rights were awarded based on the considered importance of the individual nations. The Lawn Tennis Association based Great Britain was awarded six votes.
ITF works closely in partnership with two organisations responsible for managing professional tennis around the world. These are the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and the Assocation of Tennis Professionals (ATP). ITF oversees the management of the four Grand Slam tournaments. These are the Australian Open, Roland Garros, The Championships and the US Open. In addition, there are annual team competitions for men (Davis Cup) and women (Billie Jean King Cup). Tennis is an Olympic sport and ITF also oversees representation both at the Summer Olympics and the Paralympics. The federation has their headquarters in London, England.
The history of tennis, as many historians believe, dates to the 12th century in northern France where the ball was struck with the palm of the hand. This was particularly the favourite pastime of Louis X. The ‘game of the palm’ progressed into real tennis. Louis was unhappy with playing the game outdoors and became the first person to construct indoor courts. It was only until the 16th century that rackets were first introduced to the game and the name became known as tennis. Henry VIII was also a big fan and by the late 18th and early 19th century, real tennis was in decline as other racket sports began to emerge. The invention of the lawn mower in 1830 in Britain, as with many other sports, boosted tennis with the new possibility to prepare grass courts and take the game outdoors.
Today, ITF continues to work closely with member associations to ensure the integrity and ethics of the sport is carried throughout to junior levels. The federation ensures that competitions provide opportunities for all age levels to participate, further enhancing the reputation of tennis as a truly world sport.