Real tennis is the original game from which the lawn version (and every other racquet sport) was derived. First played in the 13th century, the game is also known as Royal Tennis or (in the US) Court Tennis.
There are approximately 38 courts currently in use, the majority being in Britain. Today, the game is played in just four countries (the UK, US, France, and Australia), but at the height of its popularity in the 18th century, there were thousands of courts scattered across Europe.
The oldest original court is at Falkland Palace in Scotland, built between 1539 and 1541. The site of the Tennis Court at Hampton Court Palace pre-dates Falkland Palace, but the current court was rebuilt by Charles I in 1625 on the site of the original court built by Cardinal Wolsey between 1526 and 1529. As a young man, Henry VIII was a keen and talented tennis player who spent hours on court. His second wife Anne Boleyn was gambling on a game of tennis when she was arrested to be taken to the Tower of London. She even complained that she couldn’t collect her winnings!
Hobart Real Tennis Club
The Hobart Real Tennis Club, founded in 1875, is one of the oldest sporting clubs in the southern hemisphere. It is the oldest real tennis club in Australia and one of the oldest active clubs in the real tennis world.
Visitors are always welcome. Come in and view the historic court and club house, located on Davey Street near the historic Salamanca district in Hobart. A small donation would be gratefully received. The club is very active and the court is in continuous use from morning to evening on weekdays and weekends.
The World Championship for real tennis dates back to 1740 and is the oldest trophy in world sport. The current world champion is Camden Riviere, based out of Charleston, South Carolina, who defeated long-time champion Robert Fahey in 2016. Fahey, who learned the game in Hobart, successfully defended his world title ten times, twice in Hobart, since he first won in 1994.
The racquets are lop-sided to make it easier to cut or spin the ball when hit. Although modern, synthetic materials, such as carbon fibre, are used in the construction, the modern racquet is largely made of wood and has changed very little in appearance over the centuries.
The balls are hand-made at the club by the professionals and are similar in weight and density to a baseball. Made of cloth, tape and twine, a real tennis ball is more lively and spins more than the lighter lawn tennis ball.