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ROYAL TENNIS IN THE COLONIES TAKES OFF

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Serving the ball in a most unusual way - landing on the top of the ‘verandah’ then over the net.

DID you know that Ballarat is only one a few countries where Real Tennis is played?

What is Real Tennis (also called Royal Tennis)? Ballarat Tennis Club manager and club professional Brett McFarlane explains it as being the ‘dinosaur’ – how tennis was originally played and somehow frozen in time.

“Modern tennis has veered off to the side and been refined and refined,” he said.

Tim Lamont, Chris Alizzi, Ben and Michelle Hoskin on court last week. The community is encouraged to take advantage of free lessons on the finer points of ‘real tennis’.
Tim Lamont, Chris Alizzi, Ben and Michelle Hoskin on court last week. The community is encouraged to take advantage
of free lessons on the finer points of ‘real tennis’.

Ballarat is only one of three Real Tennis Clubs operating in Australia. “There is one in Richmond (Melbourne), one in Hobart and this one here,” Brett added. “There are about 40-odd courts in the United Kingdom, about 6 in France and about 12 courts in the US, mostly on the eastern seaboard.” There are many descriptions on the internet as to how the game is played and the scoring system but it’s essentially a cross between tennis and squash.

The courts are surrounded by four walls that are all in play, one wall has a penthouse roof and there are galleries and a tambour, which the ball flies off at various angles. The heavy, solid balls, which are handmade, take a great deal of spin, which often causes them to rebound from the walls at unexpected angles. The racquets are asymmetrical, made of wood and use very tight nylon strings to cope with the heavy balls. The racquet head is shaped to make it easier to strike balls close to the floor or in corners, and to facilitate a fast shot with a low trajectory that is difficult for an opponent to return. The Ballarat Tennis Club has up to 150 members but there is a core group of 100 who play each week. “We would really like more members to come and join us,” Brett said. “Most of the membership we have has been through word of mouth and one of the things the club would like to do is raise awareness of the game. “We would like to offer anyone who is interested three free introductory lessons – an open invitation to the community to come down, check us out, find out what is involved etc.”

Brett said that while it helps to pick up the game quicker if you come from a racquet sport, it is certainly not essential. “The bulk of our players come from normal tennis or squash and the attraction to Royal Tennis is its uniqueness – I come from a squash background and I can play squash anywhere but it is only a few who get the chance to play Real Tennis because of so few courts,” he added. “It’s also multi faceted, it’s sort of more chess like then tennis – it’s multidimensional. Tennis players like it because it’s like tennis and a little different, squash players like it because it’s like squash but a little bit different and those other members like its uniqueness – it has quirky little things like targets over the court, a handicapping system, similar to golf, which alleviates any disparity between players, so theoretically any player of any standard can play any other player and have a good game.” Currently the Ballarat Real Tennis Club is offering a chance to win $3,500 travel prize for anyone joining before December 6. For further information Brett can be contacted on 5333 5755 or 0439 868 276 or pro@ballarattennisclub.com.au.