Dating to the 12th century and constantly evolving today, tennis has a storied history rooted in inspirational champions, impactful leaders, and great moments that have influenced history, on and off the court.
The Museum at the International Tennis Hall of Fame shares the narrative of tennis history from its origins through present day. It is split into three areas, The Birth of Tennis (1874 – 1918); The Popular Game (1918 – 1968); and The Open Era (1968 – Present).
The Birth of Tennis showcases how the sport evolved from court tennis, a game played in medieval monasteries. This section takes visitors through the rise in popularity of lawn tennis in the late 1800s and the development of international tournament tennis, including the early Olympic Games, the major tournaments, and Davis Cup.
Objects helping to tell this story range from a rare book from 1555 that is believed to be the earliest known writing about the sport to rudimentary sketches of the first Wimbledon championships in 1877. Imagery of early champions helps to showcase additional themes of that era, including the rise of the women’s game, the impact of war on the sport, and even early infusion of tennis in pop culture, as shown through promotional pieces such as tennis-themed advertising for products like cigarettes and baking soda.
The Popular Game highlights how interest in the sport continued to soar throughout the 20th century, and how tennis became more and more intertwined in popular culture outside of sports, including in fashion, technology, media, and decorative arts, all of which fueled its rise to becoming one of the world’s most appealing and recognizable games.
This area of the museum focuses on the early pro tours, the rise of celebrity among athletes, and the impact of technology advances on the sport in terms of equipment and media coverage. This area also highlights the sport’s early forays into social matters, such as furthering opportunities for African-American players and growing the women’s game.
Bold tennis fashions are displayed in this section, many designed by Ted Tinling, a revolutionary designer who brought color and glamour into tennis fashions, through his custom creations for champions including Suzanne Lenglen and Gussy Moran, and later, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.
The Open Era explores the period of time in which tennis has experienced the most significant growth and success, 1968 to present. This section of the museum examines the early developmental years of the ATP and WTA straight through their more iconic recent moments.
This area also features a Grand Slam Gallery with artifacts including major trophies won by Monica Seles, a Wimbledon outfit worn by Chris Evert, and the racquet Gabriela Sabatini used to clinch the 1990 US Open title. A vibrant photography wall and video clips highlight the stories of tennis’ four majors. The rise of wheelchair tennis is highlighted in this section of the museum as well.
In addition to the three chronological areas, there are two galleries specifically dedicated to the Hall of Famers. The Woolard Family Enshrinement Gallery pays tribute to all 243 Hall of Famers through interactive kiosks featuring photos, videos, and records. The Rosalind P. Walter Tribute Gallery to the Hall of Famers will be a mutli-media gallery dedicated to the current year’s class of inductees. When the museum opens, the gallery will feature the lives and careers of the Class of 2015 – former world No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo, 6-time Paralympic champion David Hall, and tennis industry leader Nancy Jeffett.