The game of Tennis is the world’s oldest named ballgame and is the predecessor of every other racquet sport. Since the invention, rapid growth and burgeoning popularity of Lawn Tennis (which is a simplified form of the ancient game of Tennis) in the latter half of the nineteenth century, Tennis was forced to adopted the retronym ‘Real’ (that is the ‘genuine’ or ‘original’) to distinguish itself from the upstart game. Since the early twentieth century, ‘Real Tennis’ has been the name by which the game we play on this court has been known.
Real Tennis developed in the Middle Ages (probably in Italy) as an outdoor handball game, played in streets and courtyards. When enclosed courts were built, from the thirteenth century, some of the architectural elements of the outdoor play spaces were incorporated, such as walls, buttresses and windows. Standardisation of courts was not an over-riding objective of court owners and builders in the past and it is still the case that no two Real Tennis courts are exactly alike, although (almost) all share common features. The closest nearby court is in Merton Street, Oxford. It is the smallest in England (and second oldest to the one at Hampton Court Palace), while Radley’s court is a similar size to the larger ones at Queen’s Club in London and the ones in Melbourne and Paris.
Of the thousands that existed throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, there are only about 45 courts left in play, but the game now can at least claim to be more global, with courts in Australia, France, the UK and the USA.
There are as many ways to play the game as there are players, and we show here two exceptional examples. The compilation accessed below is from Day 1 of the 2016 Men’s World Championship, played at the Newport Tennis Club, Rhode Island, USA, in which the Challenger, Camden Riviere, took on defending Champion, Rob Fahey.