Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Anyone for Real Tennis?

I adore tennis, even if I’m a crap player, and use the Wimbledon fortnight as an excuse to take a break from writing. Well, someone has to cheer on the one and only Brit who ever does any good in our national tournament. Really, it’s sooo embarrassing, especially since Murray’s Scottish but, hey, we’re desperate.

Did you know that Real Tennis, dubbed the sport of kings, originated in France? The word tennis comes from the French tenez, meaning ‘take heed’. Very wise if you’re at the opposite end of the court to me, my directional shots kinda lacking direction if you get my meaning! Anyway, royal interest in England began with Henry V in 1413 but it was good old Henry VIII who really took the game to heart. Well, I guess he had to escape from all those wives somehow.  Rumour has it that Anne Boleyn was watching a game when she was arrested and Henry was supposedly playing when news was brought to him of her execution.

The game was played on indoor courts, rather like the one pictured here, still in use at Hampton Court. 


It reminds me of an over-sized squash court. Not surprising really when you consider that shots can bounce off the walls and even from openings in the roof. Weird, or what?

Lawn tennis as we know it didn’t come into being until Victorian times so during the Regency era our idly rich young bucks probably took to the courts and got rid of their aggression by whacking the balls—similar in size and make up to modern tennis balls, covered by woollen cloth—all over the place. A good way to show off their physiques and impress their wives—or more likely, other people’s wives, I’d have thought. The attached picture, taken from an earlier era, gives some idea what it must have been like.


I shall definitely have to learn more about the game and put it in a future book.

Right, now you’ll have to excuse me. The third ladies quarter final is about to start.


 


13 comments:

Toni Anderson said...

I've been to the tennis court in Falkland Palace built for James V of Scotland in 1541. Amazing really :) I love this time of year :)

Wendy Soliman said...

Me too, Toni. I have a book coming out in August called Topspin. Guess what it's about. But it's not being published by Carina so I can't really talk about it here.

Barbara Longley said...

Have you ever seen Ever After with Drew Barrymore? There's a scene where the prince is playing the "original" tenez. Very intersting. Thanks.

Stacie said...

I never watch tennis other than Wimbledon. I blame Agassi and Sampras back in the day. I had a huge crush on both of those guys. I've watched every year for probably 15 years.

Wendy Soliman said...

Never seen that film, Barbara. I'll look out for it.
Stacie, I used to work for Dunlop Sports when I was young and then BBC Radio Sports, so Wimbledon was familiar territory for me. Haven't been for years now, though.

Shelley Munro said...

I've seen the tennis court at Hampton Court. In a coincidence hubby and I watched an interesting documentary about Henry VIII's various ills last night. They say you could smell him three rooms away!
I went to Wimbledon a few times when we lived over there. It was always a fun day out, and I have fond memories of the strawberries and champagne.

Wendy Soliman said...

Thinking about our ancestors lack of personal hygiene is always a turn off. Think I'll stick with the strawberries and champers!

Joan Kilby said...

Interesting tennis facts, Wendy. I'm a tennis tragic, lol. I follow all the Grand Slams even if only online. But come the Australian Open I watch for hours. Our Great New Hope Bernard Tomic lost to Djokvic last night but he played one brilliant set. I'm hoping Andy Murray will win Wimbledon for you Brits this year!

Wendy Soliman said...

I was impressed by Tomic, Joan, but don't share your optimism about Murray sadly. Can't see him, or anyone else, getting past Nadal.

Patricia Preston said...

There was a time I played some tennis but that time is long past! LOL

Taryn Kincaid said...

The angle from which the indoor tennis court is shot makes it look like a bowlig alley lane!

Unless there's a fiery bad boy like McEnroe or Nastasi or even Agassi, my interest in Wimbledon tends to wane. Although, I must say, Nadal is quite the Spanish hunkster!

Stevie Carroll said...

I've got a WiP 20th Century novel in which one character is rather partial to a game of Real Tennis (he belongs to the Queens Club in Hammersmith, which may give you another hint as ti his character).

It was fun to research and there are more people playing currently than you might think.

Wendy Soliman said...

Obviously. This post seems to have created a lot of interest, Stevie. Thanks for stopping by and good luck with the novel.

Taryn, I don't agree about Nadal. Can't get past the fact that he scratches his arse between every point!