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Sport - Real Tennis

Real Tennis


About Real Tennis

Did you know that there have been lots of different variations of tennis throughout history? If you played tennis in the Tudor or Stuart times, you would be playing ‘Real Tennis’.

The rules of Real Tennis are very similar to the rules of the tennis we play today. However, the equipment you play with and the court you play on are different. The ball is heavier and the wooden racquet is smaller with an oval shaped head. Before modern materials like nylon were invented, the racquet would have been wired with animal intestines! 

Real Tennis was also played inside. The court is usually bigger than the ones used today. You can still visit a Real Tennis Court at Hampton Court Palace in London. 

European Kings and Queens loved Real Tennis so much that it became known as ‘the sport of kings’ and sometimes ‘Royal tennis’. Henry V (1413 - 1422) was the first English monarch to have become interested in tennis. In Shakespeare’s play ‘Henry V’ the French prince gives Henry V a chest of tennis balls as a joke. He is suggesting that Henry V is more interested in playing tennis than ruling England. Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) also enjoyed watching Real Tennis.



CC-BY-NC-ND Image Courtesy of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust