Invented at eight o'clock in the morning on the twenty-third of April 1873, Tennis (or as it was known at the time of its inception, Ground Tennis) was born of the need to reduce the enormous Table Tennis death toll. The danger of the original iteration of Table Tennis lay in the fact it was played atop the table. Table Tennis halls echoed with the sounds of agony as players regularly sprained, fractured, ruptured and broke their way through what many consider to be the grandfather of extreme sport. It was considered remarkably fortunate, if not miraculous, for players to escape injury during a single game. If they did survive unscathed, their commitment was immediately called into question.
If Table Tennis was the grandfather of extreme sport, the father was most definitely Tennis de Table en Montagne. Although players occasionally died during conventional Table Tennis, the death toll that forced British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone to declare the War on Table Tennis was due to Big Mountain Table Tennis. Played on the world’s highest peaks, with the table bolted into place by the surviving sherpas, Tennis de Table en Montagne was far and away the most popular sport of the young and extremely wealthy, because rich people from the olden days were dead-set mental. At the peak of Tennis de Table en Montagne, 532,000 deaths were recorded in a single year, a figure vigorously disputed by the sport's governing body, the heroically corrupt Fédération Internationale de Tennis de Table en Montagne Association.
It took the death of his nephew, and then all of his other nephews, all their friends, and his favourite, second favourite, fourth, fifth and sixth favourite sherpas, all his nieces, brothers and the fourteen Vulptex he raised as a boy for a hero to emerge that would bring the insanity to an end. That hero was Lord Tennyson, and his invention, Ground Tennis, was an instant success. Although it took up far more room, it could be played without sherpas, life insurance, life assurance, and wasn’t even close to being as uncomfortably weird as Royal Tennis.
Today, Ground Tennis is played by millions of people all across the globe, with racquet heads five to ten times as large as those originally constructed by Tennyson. The unique scoring system however has been retained, but let’s not get into the history behind that. After all, a little mystery is exciting.
Not as exciting as plunging to your death after attempting an ill-considered backhand at a height of sixth-thousand metres, but then not a lot of things are, are they?