One might have thought that a game dating back to the 14th century would have died out, but despite our high tech society quite the reverse is true. It is being played by a more varied cross section of people than ever before and the rules have hardly changed in 450 years. New courts are being built, and there are an ever- increasing number of new players, including a substantial number of converts from lawn tennis and squash. Devotees of the game will give you many reasons for its popularity:
- It combines elements of lawn tennis, squash, chess and backgammon (and, some would say, pinball!) into one game
- The handicapping system (a relatively recent addition to the game) allows players of varied ability, age and experience to compete on equal terms
- As well as providing a physical and intellectual challenge, real tennis offers excellent social benefits; fellow enthusiasts provide a welcoming and inclusive community, both locally and worldwide
One misconception is cost, but real tennis is not an expensive game. To join our club and play regularly costs no more than lawn tennis, golf or a variety of other sports.
Another misconception is that you have to be a man. In the 15th century, Margot of Henault was recorded as playing a fearsome game. Today the majority of fixtures (pennant) have ladies in the team, more often than not providing the competitive edge. Male and female players regularly compete with each other in a variety of competitions.
The top players are exceptional athletes but real tennis can also be played by those who are not particularly fit - foresight, cunning and strategy play as important a part as physical strength; and because of the rules of the Chase, you can let an opponent's return bounce twice on the floor without necessarily losing the point - a unique feature of real tennis!
Indeed, one of the beauties of the game is its versatility. There are many who continue to derive enormous pleasure, playing into their 70s and even 80s, confounding the fastest of young opponents by clever pacing, touch and tactics.