REAL TENNIS. Baseball fields with trees or buildings intruding echo the meadows where the game was first played. The court for “real tennis” preserves the characteristics of the 14th century streets where it originated. I first encountered “real tennis” or “court tennis” when I was staying at The Racquet Club of Philadelphia for a brief period in the seventies. (What we call “tennis” is referred to as “lawn tennis” to distinguish it from real tennis). This post at the website of the Dutch RTA has a graphic illustration of a court from Whitehall Palace in 1530, It also describes how the shape of the court developed:
“The physical boundaries of the court… echo the confined spaces where the game of tennis originated in the 14th century: the streets, the market squares or courtyards surrounded by buildings, where the ball could bounce off walls and roofs and still remain in play. When we look at the sloping roofs alongside the [real] tennis court we can see the resemblance with the penthouses above medieval shopfronts. The tennis court’s side galleries derive from the open windows lining the street, in which the ball could disappear during play.”
The rules of real tennis are tailored to the peculiar shape of the court. For example:”The game starts by serving the ball from the service side across the penthouse roof to the receiver….[and]…there are walls to play off that may produce unfamiliar bounces or spins and…there are three goal-like galleries to aim for that win automatic points if the ball is hit into them.