Facts you never expected to know about Real Tennis

Real Tennis is the oldest of the racquet games – it started as a form of handball played by French and Italian monks in the 11th century


The rules evolved to take account of the cloisters which acted as courts as the game became more popular
By the 14th century the nobility had cottoned on and the game spread across Europe – Henry VIII became one of the game’s best known devotees
In the 15th century the bare hand was protected by a glove; the ball became harder and heavier to increase the speed of play, and in 1500 the game began to be played with a racquet made from ash and animal gut
The game declined in the 18th century as a result of decreased royal interest, dishonest betting, the economic impact of continental wars and the political impact of the French Revolution
However it revived in Britain in the late 19th century as courts were constructed on large estates, and the World Championship took off as international competition thrived and spread to the USA and Australia
However the First World War dented the game’s popularity, as with all sports, and Real Tennis only really re-emerged as a popular sport in the last couple of decades
There are currently 45 active courts in the world – 26 in Britain, 10 in the USA, 6 in Australia and 3 in France
The rules are now laid down by the Tennis & Rackets Association, but have changed little since they were first formally introduced in 1599 at the same time as the standard court
Each court is different, but the approximate measurements are 110 feet long, 40 feet wide and 30 feet high; the net across the centre is 5 feet high at its ends, falling to 3 feet in the middl