The origins of tennis are shrounded in mystery and mythology. One of the principal theories is that the game began in the 12th century, when monks began to hit a ball from one side of their monastery's cloisters to the other using the palm of their hands, the so-called Jeu de Paume (Palm Game).
Over the years, hands gave way to racquets, a playing area was established and, among other games, 'real tennis' appeared, which was very popular among members of the British and French nobility. At the end of the 18th century, more racquet sports emerged in Europe.
But what really gave rise to the sport as we know it today was so-called lawn tennis, played on grass and even in the gardens of houses. The sport shared space with cricket in England around the 19th century, and even adopted some of its rules. Around 1880, championships began to be played, not only in Europe, but also in the United States.
As a result, tennis was included in the Games programme in 1896, the first Modern Olympic Games, still known as lawn tennis, and women competed as of 1900. With the foundation of the International Lawn Tennis Federation in 1913, rules were standardised.
The sport featured in the Games until 1924 in Paris, and returned as a demonstration sport in 1968 in Mexico City and in 1984 in Los Angeles. The success of the exhibition tournament in the American city was so great that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to reinstate the sport, awarding medals in 1988 in Seoul.
Although tennis started to be played on other surfaces, such as synthetic and clay courts, the word lawn in the entity's name was only removed in 1975, giving rise to the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
There are singles and doubles matches, male and female, as well as mixed doubles. Players hit the ball with the racket into the opponent's playing area, over the net, and earn points if the opponent cannot return the ball.
Matches are played in sets, which are subdivided into games. The first three points of the game are marked as 15, 30 and 40, and the next point wins the game. Whoever wins the first six games, by a margin of two games, takes the set. If there is a tie at 6-6, another game is played to seven points, counted normally and called a tie-break.
Matches are won in the best of three sets (first to two) - except for the men’s singles final, which is a best of five sets encounter. In mixed doubles, after a 1-1 draw, there will be a match tie-break, that ends when a team reaches 10 points.
The tournament format is similar to that of professional tournaments, with the match loser being eliminated and the winner playing for gold. However, there is a contest for third place, for the bronze medal, between the losers of the semi-finals, which does not occur on the professional tennis circuit. There are 16 seeded players in singles tournaments, eight in doubles and four in mixed doubles, determined by the world rankings.