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Real Tennis, the Grandfather of Padel

Real Tennis is an ancient racket sport. It served as direct or indirect inspiration to today's most modern and popular racket-sports, including Padel.

Real Tennis
Jesmond Dene 2008

Real Tennis -also known as the Game of Kings or Court Tennis- is the grandfather of all the racket sports, including Padel. It has more similarities with Padel than with any other racket sport. They use walls! From May 17 to May 21st they are playing the Real Tennis World Championships in Newport, US.

imagesReal Tennis should not be confused with “lawn tennis”; Real Tennis dates back to the 11th century. How the sport was really created is uncertain. It is believed that it was developed by monks, who first utilized their hand to hit the ball. Later the sport developed further and they started utilizing rackets of various types. In the 16th century the sport changed greatly; it was played indoors, in castles and by royalty only. In the 19th century it was accessible to non-royals, when courts were built in the US. Today, after many assumed that the sport would disappear, the sport is flourishing.

Real Tennis, going strong

Richard Smith, Director at the The National Tennis Club said “…People thought this sport went extinct years and years ago, but it is thriving and flourishing… Real tennis is one of those sports that you can never be the best at. You are playing a mix of chess, ballet and tennis together. It’s all about putting your opponent out of rhythm.” Smiths’s comments remind of padel a lot. If you analyze this ancient sport further, you would conclude that Real Tennis is intricate, it favors strategy and smarts over physical strength, like Padel.realtennis_webReal Tennis is played with wooden rackets as long as a human hand. The goal of the game is to win six sets using the typical tennis point system. Courts are similar in size –110 x 39 feet– but many have slightly different dimensions. “Courts can be different, so home professionals definitely have an advantage,” reiterates Smith. However, this is where the game gets interesting.

In stark comparison to typical lawn, clay or hardcourt tennis, Real Tennis is played inside with high walls, a lofty ceiling and three sloping roofs known as “penthouses.” Beneath the penthouses are various openings known as “galleries,” as well as a “tambour,” which sticks out into the playing area. The ball can be played off any of these surfaces, so players need a high level of strategic thinking to understand how hard to hit the ball and where. “Squash and lawn tennis become monotonous to me. I can’t say they are boring because they are not, but it can be a game of who is the fittest and there isn’t much strategy,” says Smith. “With real tennis, anything can happen. There are so many variables. That’s where the fun is for me.”

All in all, Real Tennis looks like Padel more than any other racket sport in the world. Salut to the grandfather of Padel!