Real tennis

From Academic Kids

Real tennis is the original racquet sport from which the modern game of lawn tennis, or tennis, is descended. Real tennis is still played at a small number of active courts in the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States and France.

It is also known as "court tennis" (America), jeu de paume (France) and formerly called "royal tennis" (Australia). The term real tennis is often thought to be a corruption of this last name and related to the game's connection with royalty during its heyday in England and France in the 16th and 17th centuries. In fact "real" was first used at the end of the 19th century as a retronym to distinguish it from the then recently invented game of lawn tennis. Real tennis players often just call it "tennis," describing the modern game as "lawn tennis."



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Jesmond Dene jeu à dedans court
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Falkland Palace jeu quarré court

Real tennis has evolved over centuries from an earlier ball game played around the 12th century in France. This had some similarities to palla, fives, pelota, or handball, involving hitting a ball with a bare hand and later with a glove. One theory is that this game was played by monks in monastery cloisters, and the shape of the court is certainly to this day reminiscent of a courtyard. Another theory is that the court features relate to medieval city streets and squares. The term "tennis" derives from the French word tenez, which means "take it"—a warning from the server to the receiver.

The game spread across Europe and became increasingly popular, with the Venetian Ambassador reporting in 1600 that there were 1,800 courts in Paris alone. Shakespeare mentions the game in Act 1 of Henry V. By the 16th century, the glove had become a racquet, the game had moved to an enclosed playing area and the rules had stabilised. Henry VIII's great attachment to the game around this time is also well known. The game became popular among the 17th and 18th century nobility in England and France, but eventually declined in popularity. This was due in large part to the impact that wider political and social changes—the English Civil War and Puritanism, and the French revolution—had upon the aristocracy and its pursuits. Real tennis played a minor role in the history of the French Revolution, through the Tennis Court Oath, a pledge signed by French deputies in a real tennis court, which formed an decisive early step in starting the revolution.

The game regained popularity in the 19th century, but soon gave birth to the outdoor game of lawn tennis which quickly became the most popular form of the sport.

Today there are only around forty real tennis courts remaining in the world and several thousand active players. There has been something of a revival towards the end of the 20th century, with several new courts being built, for example in the UK at Clifton College and the Millennium Tennis Court at Middlesex University and in Australia in Sydney, Ballarat and Romsey. The Netherlands and Ireland have real tennis interest groups.

Manner of play

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Racquets and balls

The rules and scoring are similar to those of lawn tennis, which derives from real tennis. Although in both sports game scoring is by fifteens, in real tennis 6 games wins a set, even if the opponent has 5 games. A match is typically best of 5 sets.

The 2½ inch (64 mm) diameter balls are handmade and consist of a core made of cork with fabric tape tightly wound around it and is covered with a hand-sewn layer of felt. Until recently the felt was always white, but yellow has been introduced for player safety. They are much less bouncy than a lawn tennis ball, and weigh about 2½ ounces (71 grams). The 27 inch (686 mm) long racquets are made of wood and use very tight strings to cope with the heavy ball. The racquet head is bent slightly to make it easier to strike balls close to the floor or in corners.

A real tennis court (jeu à dedans) is a very substantial building (a larger area than a lawn tennis court, with walls and a ceiling to contain all but the highest lob shots). It is enclosed by walls on all sides, three of which have sloping roofs (known as "penthouses") with various openings, and a buttress (tambour) off which shots may be played. The courts (except at Falkland Palace, a jeu quarré design) share the same basic layout but have slightly different dimensions. The courts are about 110 by 39 feet (33.5 × 11.9 m) including the penthouses, or about 96 by 32 feet (29.3 × 9.8 m) on the playing floor, varying by a foot or two per court. They are doubly asymmetric—not only is one end of the court different in the shape from the other, but the left and right sides of the court are also different. The service only happens from one end of the court (the "service" end) and the ball has to travel along the penthouse to the left of the server to the other end, called the "hazard" end. There are numerous widely differing styles of service, many with exotic names to distinguish them. The game of stické uses a smaller court of a similar layout.

The game has other complexities, including that when the ball bounces twice at the serving end, the serving player does not generally lose the point outright. Instead a "chase" is called, and the server gets the chance, later in the game currently being played, to replay the point from the other end, but under the obligation of ensuring every shot he plays has a second bounce further back from the net than the shot he failed to reach. One result of this feature is that a player can only gain the advantage of serving through skillful play (i.e. gaining a "chase" which ensures a change of end), as opposed to lawn tennis where service alternates between the players by rotation.

Another interesting twist to the game is the various windows below the penthouse roof that, in some cases, offer the player a channce to win the point instantly by hitting the ball into the opening. The largest window, located behind the server, is called the "Dedans" and must often be defended from hard hit shots (called "forces") coming from the receiving (called the "hazard") side of the court. The resulting strategy of long volleys and shots off the side walls and penthouse roof lead to many interesting shots not normally played in lawn tennis. However, because of the weight of the balls, the small racquets, and the need to defend the rear of the court, lawn tennis strategies like serve and volley are rarely employed.

The level of thinking involved makes real tennis unusual in being a physical sport which people often take up and reach a relatively high level of proficiency later in life.

See also

External link

fr:Jeu de Paume fy:Hoftennis it:Pallacorda


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