What Came First Tennis Or Ping Pong

What Came First Tennis Or Ping Pong

Last modified: October 14, 2023

It’s an age-old sporting question that sparks inquisitive dialogues and discussions amongst enthusiasts – what came first, tennis or ping pong? Delve into the historical timelines of these two beloved sports, and you’d be amazed to see the interconnections, evolutions, and transformations that have shaped the game we love and play today.

The Origins of Tennis

Sporting history is dotted with various forms of tennis, making pinpointing its exact inception a challenging task. However, the modern game of tennis that we’re familiar with today, originated in the 19th century.

The Medieval Roots

The primitive versions of the game, often referred to as ‘Real Tennis’ or ‘Royal Tennis’, began in the monastic cloisters in Northern France during the 12th century. In contrast with modern tennis, the rules were much less defined, and palms of the hands were used to strike the ball.

Birth of Lawn Tennis

The game that we know today as ‘tennis’ is actually ‘lawn tennis’, introduced in the late 19th century. Major Walter Clopton Wingfield patented this game as “Sphairistike” in 1874. Despite its tricky name, the sport gained popularity quickly and was renamed ‘lawn tennis’.

Evolution through the years

Since the first Wimbledon Championship in 1877, the rules and equipment of the game have evolved significantly, shaping the present format and making tennis a popular spectator sport worldwide.

The Emergence of Ping Pong

While the origins of tennis might have been rooted deeply into history, ping pong, often referred to as table tennis, emerged relatively recently, but not without its own rich backstory to tell.

The After-Dinner Game

Ping pong started off as a parlor game in the upper-class homes of Victorian England during the 1880s. Mimicking tennis in an indoor setting, it initially was known as ‘wiff waff’, with books serving as makeshift nets, cigar box lids as rackets, and champagne corks as balls.

The Ping Pong Phenomenon

The name ‘Ping Pong’ was commercially coined by J. Jaques and Son, a famous sports manufacturing company in the late 19th century, and it spread like wildfire. By the early 20th century, ping pong had become a global phenomenon.

The Olympic Inclusion

Advancements continued to be made to the game and table tennis eventually became an Olympic sport in 1988 with its refined rules and professional playing techniques.

So, Which Came First?

Now that we have understood the respective historical journeys of tennis and ping pong, it’s time to address the million-dollar question: Which came first?

The First Knock

Considering the timeline, ‘Real Tennis’ came first. However, it was a very different game from the tennis or ping pong we know today. The modern games we enjoy today were developed around the same time with lawn tennis grading slightly ahead.

The Served Ball

Lawn tennis as we know it was patented in 1874, just a decade or so before ping pong made its appearance in Victorian England. Therefore, in the strict sense of the modern versions of these games, tennis gained the first point.

The Winning Shot

Therefore, when it comes down to ‘who came first,’ tennis can safely claim the winning shot. However, the history and evolution of both sports have shown that each borrowed and learned from each other, enhancing and solidifying their place in the global sports spectrum.


Whether it’s tennis or ping pong, the charm and appeal of these sports lie not only in their competitive spirit but also in their rich, dynamic histories. Tracing back to their origins and journeys helps us appreciate them even more, fostering a sense of respect for the evolution of sports culture across centuries. So, next time you pick up that racket, remember, you’re not just playing a game. You’re part of a larger, living history that continues to evolve and enchant!

Additional Ping-Pong Resources:
Table Tennis Girl is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program that helps website admins earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon.com. We only earn a commission if you purchase an item from amazon.com. The prices on Amazon do not change (either way) if you reach them via our links.