Why Play Real Tennis?
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 and backgammon into one game
The handicapping system allows players of varied ability, age and experience to compete on equal terms – the outcome of a game of Real Tennis is never a foregone conclusion!
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
The Bristol & Bath employs full time professionals who are available to provide coaching and advice to members on a one-to-one basis throughout the week
Played indoors on courts that are reminiscent in some ways of monastery cloisters, the game encompasses familiar features of lawn tennis and squash, as well as an intellectual challenge unknown in any other racquet sport. As in lawn tennis, the ball has to be played across a net, and as in squash it can be returned directly or played off the walls. Scoring follows the “15, 30, 40, Game” pattern later adopted by lawn tennis.
Among the unique features of Real Tennis are various “target areas” in the court (which win you a point if you hit them), and the chance, from time to time, to replay a point if you fail to return the ball. Though this aspect of the game may seem a little complicated at first, new players quickly get the idea, and find it adds immensely to their enjoyment of the game – as well as ensuring that speed, strength and fitness won’t always triumph over guile and strategy!
What are the shortcomings?
One misconception is cost, but Real Tennis is not an expensive game. To join a 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 played by the Bristol & Bath Club 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.
You do not even have to be 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. The game’s terminology even proves the point, a rally being correctly called a “rest”.
The truth is that tennis is enjoyed by men and women of all ages and standards – their common denominator being the love of a game that becomes more fascinating every time they play. There is only one way to put it to the test – come and have an introductory game at Abbots Leigh.