• Sat. Sep 23rd, 2023

The Exclusive, Elusive Planet of True Tennis


Jun 3, 2023
The Exclusive, Elusive World of Real Tennis

Up on the second floor, hidden behind the facade of a tall Haussmann developing not far from the Arc de Triomphe, is the Jeu de Paume Club, the only active court tennis club in Paris.

The members of the club, like the players at Wimbledon in England, are dressed all in white, and they contact out the scores “quinze!” and “trente!” just the very same as the umpires a couple of miles west, at Roland Garros, exactly where the French Open is getting played by means of June 11.

Contemporary tennis, or lawn tennis, which was formally invented in England in the 1870s, bears a lot of of the traces of court tennis, not least the simple vocabulary of scoring, even if no one particular has definitively established if it is referenced from medieval horological sources or the paces that a player sophisticated when he won a point in the game of longue paume, the ancestor of most racket sports but especially lawn tennis, which has been played in villages across France given that the 13th century.

Court tennis, also identified as actual tennis, created 200 years later, according to Gil Kressmann, a historian and the honorary president of the Jeu de Paume Club, as cities evolved in France and walled courts replaced the big open spaces previously employed for longue paume. The sport took off across Europe and Britain, exactly where it was championed by Henry VIII.

The courts in France then, as currently, had been managed by specialists identified as maîtres paumiers, who performed in matches, gave lessons and produced the balls and rackets. As for the final requirement, Guillaume Dortu, the existing club experienced at the Palace of Fontainebleau, did not hide his relief that “mercifully, specialists do not have to do that currently.”

But he and other club pros like Rod McNaughtan in Paris are the only men and women permitted to sell court tennis rackets, which are nonetheless constructed of wood. Every month, they make one hundred to 150 balls, cautiously weighing the difficult core of cork and cotton webbing ahead of stitching the thick yellow felt exterior by hand. They also clean the court day-to-day.

Enthusiasm for the game began to wane at the finish the 17th century, and it was linked to gambling and much less salubrious events such as when the Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi, improved identified as Caravaggio, killed an opponent on a tennis court in Rome in 1606, major to his getting banished from the city. In France, the game’s reputation suffered beneath Louis XIV, whose heavy physique discouraged him from playing. He was keener on billiards.

The French Revolution, which started in 1789, distracted from the game, even though one particular of the revolution’s founding moments, the Tennis Court Oath, took location in the tennis court at Versailles, exactly where deputies convened right after getting locked out of the palace, swearing not to disband till France had a constitution.

Now, the sport is played competitively in the 4 nations that also make up tennis’s Grand Slam: France, exactly where the game is identified as jeu de paume Britain and Australia, exactly where it goes by actual tennis and the United States, household of the existing men’s planet champion, Camden Riviere. There are just more than 50 courts in the planet, and the prohibitive price of constructing new courts is a important situation. Whilst the game is gaining in reputation, there are only about ten,000 active players.

What ever they could possibly lack in numbers, court tennis players make up for with enthusiasm. When asked to describe the sport, they most often examine it to chess and say its cerebral demands are as vital, if not a lot more so, than the physical ones.

Players take pride in the esoteric nature of the game as nicely as its asymmetrical court with buttress, galleries, many nooks and crannies with odd names and the truth that no two courts in the planet are precisely the very same. Therein lies the challenge for players like Matthieu Sarlangue, who is ranked No. ten in the planet and is a 13-time French amateur champion. “Technically it is pretty hard and demanding,” he mentioned. “You seriously have to master the techniques mainly because there are so a lot of choices on the court.”

The game is a sporting conundrum, one particular that Martin Village, a 70-year-old court tennis enthusiast from London and member of the Dedanists’ Society, a tiny group of British players devoted to the history of the sport, explained merely.

“If you wanted to style a game that was going to place men and women off from playing it,” he mentioned, “you would most likely style a actual tennis court. But that is why it is a supply of endless fascination.”

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