Scroll Down For
3. Detailed explanation of the construction of Middlesex & Wellington Courts
4. A short Guide to Real Tennis
by Pol Roger
5. A manual for the apprentice of the game of Real Tennis.
by Edouard Kressmann
6. An Unusual Dictionary
by Gil Kressmann
7. In Memory of Paul Danby
8. The Doubles Game - Strategy & Tactics by Colin Dean
1. In memory of Chris Stanton
2. Tennis at Canford by Ian Harris
This special Gresham Society event is free. You are welcome to register by clicking here and following the registration instructions on the GoToWebinar system.
How Real Tennis Scoring Was Adopted For Lawn Tennis Scoring, Then Lawn Tennis Handicapping Methods Wormed Their Way Into Real Tennis. To read more please click on the link below:-
Odds Oddities: 18th & 19th Century Tennis Handicaps & Traditions, Some Stranger Than Others
By Ian Harris
This is the third of four papers on the peculiar origins and development of tennis. In the second of the papers: Horrible Histories… I explored the phenomena of wagering and handicapping, which date back at least as far as the late medieval period for tennis. To read more please click on the link below:-
The Possible Origins Of The Tennis Scoring System
First Of Four Articles On The Evolution Of Tennis Scoring & Handicapping
By Ian Harris
Why Score Points/Strokes in 15s?
Lovers of tennis have long pondered the origins of the scoring system. In particular, the notion that the first point scores 15, the second point 30 and so on, until one player has scored four points, or, if the score reaches three-all, once one player has subsequently taken two consecutive points.
There are a great many theories about the origins of this convention: To read more please click on the link below:-
The Primordial, Honourable & Ignoble Arts Of Tennis Handicapping
Second Of Four Articles On The Evolution Of Tennis Scoring & Handicapping
By Ian Harris
In researching my first piece in this short series, Ancient Arithmetic: Possible Origins Of The Tennis Scoring System, I trawled a great many authoritative (and some nonauthoritative) sources in search of the source of the tennis scoring system. In so doing, I also learnt a great deal about the odds, or handicapping systems that tend to accompany tennis scoring.
I also learnt that the origins of tennis, its scoring and handicapping are inextricably linked to the fact that tennis was widely played and observed as a wagering game, certainly as far back as medieval times. Enjoy the following example: To read more please click on the link below:-
Moreton Morrell have produced a Real Tennis lockdown quiz for their members to tackle between zoom calls!
In Memory of CHRIS STANTON 1957-2020
Chris Stanton was a highly versatile actor whose work spanned several decades. His first break in television came on Only Fools and Horses, as a dating agency geek in the 1980s. After many smaller roles (normally as a vicar or a news reporter), Chris and his ubiquitous specs became well-known as Mr Flatley, the oblivious headmaster in the long-running children’s TV series, MI High - a role he relished. As a consequence, his versatility was regularly on display in pantomime where he excelled – as villain, dame and even director.
Coincidentally, both of us got to know Chris via the topical cabaret show, NewsRevue, in the 1990s and both latterly enjoyed doing battle with him on the Lord’s real tennis court.
Chris was a great friend, lover of cricket and devotee of real tennis. He will be sadly missed by his wife Erica and his many friends and colleagues.
Chris Rowe & Ian Harris
Just to let you know that Erica, Chris's wife has established a Just Giving page to raise funds for Trinity Hospice which looked after Chris for the last few weeks of his life. If anyone in the Dedanists’ Society, would like to take a look Chris's page it is www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ChrisStannyStanton
A Cut Above The Rest
By kind permission of Chris Ronaldson we are pleased to show links to 2 caching videos.
The book and its sequal, A Second Cut, as well as other interesting tennis publications are available from Ronaldson Publications
Tennis at Canford
An interesting Booklet courtesy of Ian Harris
Download the booklet
Detailed explanation of the construction of Middlesex & Wellington Courts
Peter Luck-Hille recently attended a Dedanist match and over lunch was sharing his experience of being involved in the construction of the Middlesex and Wellington courts.
He has very kindly made the note below available to us all.
Download the article
"A Short Guide to Real Tennis"
Published by Pol Roger
Click here to download booklet
A MANUAL FOR THE APPRENTICE OF THE GAME OF REAL TENNIS
Édouard Kressmann (Trans. Alastair Robson)
A collection of lessons given by Pierre Etchebaster – the World Champion from 1928-1954 - to Édouard Kressmann of Bordeaux in the 1950s on the art and technique of playing the game of real tennis was privately printed in 2017, in a limited edition. It has now been made more widely available, in an English translation.
As the original introduction stated: ‘The present booklet has no pretentions other than to make available to beginners and those wishing to improve their game, advice from the great champion, the Frenchman Pierre Etchebaster’.
It is a small but comprehensive manual of instruction from the era of ‘the classical game’, before the more modern style of play developed during the latter half of the 20th century: it is small enough to slip into one’s pocket for consultation in an idle moment, or when travelling on bus or train, or whilst in the dentist’s waiting room . . . . . and much more affordable than Etchebaster’s ‘Pierre’s Book’ (even if you could find a copy!).
Published September 2019 by Ronaldson Publications @ £8.00 (+ £2.00 p&p)
Email orders to firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheques, payable to Ronaldson Publications, sent to: Ronaldson Publications 13A Linkside Avenue Oxford OX2 8HY: Tel: 01865 318183
This is a gem of a book. It is ostensibly aimed at beginners, but every player who has ever considered the complexities and collisions of possibilities of a game of real tennis will have at least as much to gain from it. Distilled from notes made by a French player, Édouard Kressman, after lessons given by the legendary Pierre Etchebaster at the New York club between 1955 and 1960, we are invited to consider the fundamentals of the game in terms that are almost shamanic in their simplicity. And this is the key - real tennis is a game, yes, but it is also a meditative exercise. And so we get Striking the Ball. Positioning. The Choice of the Appropriate Stroke. Attacking and Defending. And this reader's favourite: Think Before Acting.
There is much wisdom here. For example, I had never fully appreciated the simple truth that 'the higher up the ball hits the tambour, the more it will be deflected towards the winning gallery opening'. And I need always to be reminded that 'the player must never stop looking at the ball'. Then there are moments of mysterious observation - 'The boast stroke does not allow much forgiveness'. I think that means it's harder for the receiver to play, but, at least as I execute it, that's not always the case. The advice that I will take into my next game, though, and all games I hope hereafter, is this: 'Always hold the wrist beneath the head of the racquet'. The exception, in this case, is the half volley.
At 61 pages, this book doesn't outstay its very warm welcome, and is all the better for it. The introduction is by Kressman's sons - Roland and Gil - and we are indebted to the Dedanist Alastair Robson for his acute translation and consistently informative, wry, footnotes, as in his discussion of Etchebaster's 'upside down cut' of the 'American' or 'raillroad' serve, which leads him to quote Chris Ronaldson's warning to avoid contact between the head of the racquet and the shin of the left leg (if you're right-handed).
This book is essential reading for anyone interested in real tennis, a game described encouragingly by Kressmann as 'requiring intelligence and skill, and both certainly much more than athleticism'.
London • October 2019
An Unusual Dictionary
ALL you ever wanted to KNOW about TENNIS and other BALL GAMES but didn’t know where to look
Foreword by Denis Grozdanovitch
Note: The Dedanists are very grateful for the opportunity to present extracts translated from Gil Kressmann’s perceptive and wide-ranging dictionary of tennis terms. The book, in its original French, is available from:
12 rue Feutrier
+33 (0)6 72 77 51 78 •
The word paume means palm in English, but in the context of European ball games it is perhaps best understood as the ancestral founder of a dynasty of games – jeux de paume –which are predominantly but not exclusively French, but all of which are descended from the act of striking a ball with the palm of a hand.
In fact the word paume never made it into English in quite the same way as that other French word, uttered by the server to alert the receiver that the ball was on its way, tenez, or tennis. Indeed in the case of the only game which would have been very appropriately described by the word palm, the English revealed a preference for fives.
So, other than defining their meaning in English where it’s essential to do so, I’ve tried to avoid literal translation of paume and its cognates jeu de paume, longue paume and courte paume, each of which I feel deserves the dignity of its original name.
Set out below are translations of those parts of Gil Kressmann’s dictionary that will appeal particularly to players of real tennis. I’ve started with historical and etymological entries and will eventually, I hope, work through to matters of practical and technical interest.
It’s a great pleasure to work with Gil Kressmann’s lively and elegant text. Each of the entries is intended to be read on its own, so there is inevitably some repetition. Any mistakes and infelicities in their translation, though, are mine.
London • 2019
1. Tenez - Tennis
Or Tenetz in Old French. This very ancient word was used by the server to announce to his opponent that the game was about to start, and to assure himself that the receiver was ready for the service. It is ultimately an expression of traditional French politeness. The spellings vary: tenetz, tenez, teneys, tenyse, tennys, but all derive from the French command ‘tenez, messire’ (hold, sir) and convey the sense of advice to take care or get ready . In the past, the server used the word to alert his opponent before the first ball of the game.
Tenez is the French word that was taken up and anglicised by the English as tennis. And the French use of the term has itself evolved. Nowadays, instead of saying tenez we say ‘Etes-vous prêt? (Are you ready?) or simply ‘Prêt?’ or we just say, in English, ‘Ready?’
2. Main (Hand)
Around the 13th century when it began, jeu de paume was played as in all the ball games of antiquity with bare hands, using the palm of the hand to hit the ball. Then, to provide protection for the hand, it was played with a glove, and eventually a racquet was used, which lengthened the reach of the arm and, providing more leverage, allowed the ball to be hit with much greater force. Some games of pelota are still played with bare hands, or with a glove: pasaka (in Navarra and Iparrelde in Northern Spain), and balle pelote (in Belgium).
[Translator’s Note: it has been suggested that pelota (Spanish), pilota (Basque) and pelote (French) are all diminutives of the Latin word pila – a hard leather ball filled with pilus (fur or hair); or, possibly, from the Latin verb pellere (to hurl or propel).
3. The expression ‘Jeu de main, jeu de vilain’ (‘It’s a rough game’ or ‘Play tough’)
The people of the land, the peasants who made up the large majority of the population at the time of the Renaissance, were known as vilains (villeins or villagers) because they lived in country villas. A vilain is, in feudal language, a common-born person of the country, and the word has come to be associated with such qualities as irritating, nasty, dirty and badly brought up. If they wanted to play paume, and not having sufficient money to buy a bat (for longue paume) or a racquet (for courte paume), they had to content themselves with playing the game with bare hands, or with a glove. It is from this that the popular expression ‘jeu de main, jeu de vilain’ has evolved.
There’s a possible alternative explanation: longue paume was played in the countryside and therefore by villagers, while courte paume was played in town. The racquet was introduced for courte paume at the end of the 15th century, well before it was used in longue paume. So country vilains went on playing by hand while their bourgeois counterparts played courte paume with a racquet.
Today, on a lawn tennis court, as well as a real tennis court, a new habit has made its appearance among doubles players. They high five each other after every point won. Is this intended to give the lie to the very ancient expression ‘jeu de main, jeu de vilain’ ?
Figuratively, the expression ‘jeu de main, jeu de vilain’ conveys the sense that ‘jeux de main games in which shots are traded in a bantering way, without any intention of doing each other harm, don’t suit badly brought up people, and often end in quarrels. The expression is often used to explain to children that fighting is very naughty’. Emil Littré – Dictionnaire de la langue française.
If you have something to prove or a score to settle, try to avoid doing it on a tennis court, real or lawn. In 2010 Thierry Henry gave a personal interpretation of this old French expression with a hand-ball goal, a goal celebrated from that time onwards, in a world cup qualifying football match against Ireland.
The word vilain having acquired a moral sense, the proverb has expanded its area of application and now has erotic connotations. Le Robert des Sports - Paul Robert 1990
4. Jeu de Paume
Describes the place where longue paume or courte paume is played, as well as the sport itself. When jeu de paume is mentioned without specifying which type, it’s generally courte paume that’s being talked about. It is about courte paume that the writer Pierre Assouline wrote this glowing eulogy:
‘Depending on temperament, jeu de paume is a way of life, a civilisation, a pastime, a skill, a recreation, a hobby, an act of asceticism, a way of carrying on, a snobbish thing, a pleasure, another way of devotion to billiards, a vision of the world, chess in action, a question of life or death… Even for those to whom it’s a sport, it’s also – that ultimate extravagance – a game! These are the ones who’ve got it the worst. It is true that you can spend a life in search of the perfect shot’. ( Assouline - La Règle du Jeu - 2004).
5. Longue Paume
Longue paume is played outdoors in the open air, often on ground of hardened earth or cemented surfaces. The French have played it since the 13th century. It’s the ancestor of courte paume which, by contrast, is played indoors, within four walls. Longue paume was played in castle moats, around churches and in fields. With the development of courts of courte paume in towns, longue paume became an essentially rural sport. After the Second World War the practice of the game was progressively restricted to Picardy, in a zone running from Peronne to Montdidier in the Somme, and from Breteil to Noyon in the Oise. It’s worth noting that longue paume has been played in Paris since 1855, thanks to an authorisation of the Senate, in the Jardin de Luxembourg. Today in France there are around 1,200 licensed players of longue paume and 35 sports clubs where the game can be played.
This game consists in sending and receiving a ball from one half of the field of play to the other with a racquet, either by volley or after it has bounced once on the ground. A cord, a ditch or a narrow zone (depending on the type of game) separates the two camps: the Tir side, so named because it is the side from which the server (tireur) serves (tire) the service, and the Rachas (or Rechas) side which receives the service. Rachas is from an old Picardien dialect verb ‘rachasser’ or ‘rechasser’ which means to push or send back (the ball). It is still used in Belgian balle pelote.
The aim of longue paume is, as in all racquet sports, to force the opposition to fail to return the ball or make a fault in doing so. To this end it’s about making the ball ‘die’ on the opposite side. The ball which bounces twice and at least once inside the limits of the area of play, without having been touched by the opposition, is said to be dead. It cannot be returned, or ‘rechassée’, as they used to say.
If the ball isn’t played before the second bounce, it doesn’t, for all that, lose the point but, as in courte paume, it makes a chase (chasse). Equally a ball is considered dead if, after a first bounce, it continues to roll and finishes its course within the limits of the field of play. It must then be stopped (cut or blocked) by a player as quickly as possible, so that any chase it creates is the shortest possible.
[Translator’s Note: in this sense the shorter the chase the further away from the back service line it would be]
The chase will determine the size of the area that remains available to the opponent(s) when they change sides. When there are two chases the players must change sides and the service (the tir in longue paume) changes hands. The players must then play these chases and win them to get a point.
Games can be played between 2 and 12 players on a field of play divided into two camps and separated by a cord or a ditch. There are two types of game in longue paume: the grounded game (la partie terrée) and the raised game (la partie enlevée):
• the grounded game, the most ancient, is played with a cord laid on the ground in the middle of the field of play. It takes its name - grounded - from the fact that once the ball is in play it can be returned along the ground without the need to get over the cord in each exchange – because the receiving players can go into the opposition side to hit the ball back. The grounded game is played with four or six on each side, with seven winning games (jeux gagnants) to the set.
• in the raised game, in every exchange the ball must get over the ditch or neutral ground (fossé or terrain neutre) and there is no right of rolling the ball along the ground (balle terrée) to create a longer chase. The raised game can be played as singles, doubles or four against four, with 5 winning games to the set.
• During the 2nd Olympiad in Paris in 1900, a longue paume tournament took place in the Jardin de Luxembourg, featuring both types of game (terrée and enlevée), and played entirely by French teams (which, presumably, won all the medals).
• The Fédération Française de Longue Paume has a face-book page, and a headquarters at 23 chemin du Thil, 80000 Amiens.
• All games involving chases are known as games of gagne-terrain (gain-ground), but only in longue paume is it not desirable only to make the opponent unable to return the ball, it’s also necessary for that to happen as far away as possible. No other modern game incorporates this principle, and it’s possibly why, in the grounded game (la partie terrée), there is theoretically no limit to the length of the rachas (receivers’ end).]
(sketch of longue paume court to follow)
6. Courte Paume – Real Tennis
Emerging directly from the game of longue paume, it was probably first played in the 13th century and underwent strong development in towns from the beginning of the 15th century with the growth of the merchant classes and the nobility.
Courte paume began because players in towns retreated to rooms. Courte paume (short palm) is so called because by comparison to those of a longue paume (long palm) ground, its dimensions are smaller, being around half the length. The cost of real estate in towns effectively forced courte paume to adapt its playing space. The courts of courte paume were quickly covered with a roof to permit play in all weather.
Grounds on the margins of cities, if not outside them altogether, continued to be used for the outdoor practice of the original form of the game, which was known thereafter as longue paume .
While longue paume essentially confined itself to northern France, courte paume spread progressively throughout Europe during the course of the 17th century. There are the remains of numerous jeux de courte paume in Austria, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Spain, Great Britain, Italy, Russia, Sweden and the Low Countries. In Germany courte paume took the name Ballhaus.
Thus courte paume became Europe’s first mass sport. Not until the 19th century was it also played in the US and Australia.
At the time of its peak, in the 15th, 16th and at the start of the 17th centuries, jeu de courte paume had become incontestably the favourite pastime not only of the nobility, but also of students, merchants and artisans in towns. Men of the church and monks also played this game, while longue paume was the outdoor sport for country people – the vilains.
Albert de Luze, the great historian of jeu de paume, made a list of some 300 jeux de courte paume in different provinces of the kingdom at the beginning of the 17th century. Several accounts mention a number of 250 jeux de courte paume in Paris alone at the end of the 17th century, at a time when the capital numbered no more than 300,000 inhabitants.
At that time there were two sorts of jeux de courte paume, one which was called jeu à carré, the older form of the game that has now disappeared, and the other, the jeu à dedans, a game in which there is a large opening on the back wall on the side of the server, a bay called ‘dedans’. This is the game that is played now in France, England, the United States and Australia.
There are presently ten or so jeux de courte paume in France of which only four are being actively used: Bordeaux, Fontainebleau, Paris and Pau. Other courts that are still recognisable have been for the most part turned into museums. This has happened to the Jeu de Paume des Tuileries in Paris, the celebrated Jeu de Paume de Versailles which has become the museum of the French Revolution, and to the Jeu de Paume de Chantilly.
A discovery has been made very recently at La Bastide-Clairence in the Pyrenees of a jeu de paume dating from 1512 - it is in the process of renovation – and another at Chinon (end of 16th century) which had been used for poultry processing but could be converted back to its original function. Very recently, paume has been played in a trinquet at Bayonne.
Translator’s note: This is for starters. I’ll try to do 3 or 4 definitions a month, and get some illustrations going too.
Gil wrote his book back in 2012 – since then Bordeaux has gone and is coming back again.
In Memory of Paul Danby from the Dedanists
Paul was born in 1939. He died at home on Friday 7th June 2019 after a long battle with cancer. The funeral is at St Mary’s Church, Hayling Island Tuesday 25th June at 2 pm. The family has asked that any donations should be made to the Dedanists' Foundation.
Paul was a fine sportsman with an infectious enthusiasm for the more traditional and esoteric of ballgames, especially real tennis, rackets and cricket. He was a leader in regenerating the Seacourt Tennis Club in the 1960s and thereafter, with Peter Dawes and others, developing Seacourt into a powerhouse for producing talented young tennis players and professionals.
It was in this spirit of nurturing new initiatives in real tennis, especially those in support of the recruiting and coaching of youngsters, that Paul was such an active supporter and generous donor to the Dedanists. He became a founder member of the Society in 2003, an early supporter of the Society’s Real Tennis Academy for coaching the best young players and, in 2018, a founder patron of the Foundation and its work in recruiting new youngsters and schools to the game. Paul played in many of the Society’s matches and fundraising tournaments. Together with Sarah, he attended many of the Society’s dinners.
We shall remember with gratitude and affection the generosity of his support for junior real tennis, the gracefulness of his classic floor game, occasional eruptions of fiercely held views and his idiosyncratic habit of apologising to the receiver whenever his first serve was a fault. We thank Paul’s family for continuing his generosity by recommending that funeral donations be made to the Dedanists.
The Dedanist 23-6-19
Real Tennis - The Doubles Game
STRATEGY & TACTICS by Colin Dean
We are delighted that Colin Dean has very kindly shared with us a copy of a booklet on “Doubles Strategy and Tactics” which he wrote some years ago principally for lower handicap players. Colin originally wrote this booklet as a guide to the players who played for the Hatfield Field Trophy team in order to give them an edge over their doubles opponents in that event.
Your committee decided that this is an excellent analysis of doubles play and that members and players of all levels would benefit from reading it. We are very grateful to Colin for allowing us to reproduce it here on our website. Colin’s impressive CV as a player both on the tennis court and in other sports as well as an administrator accompanies the booklet and demonstrates how he is uniquely qualified as the author of this instructive booklet. Thank you very much Colin for allowing a wider audience to read your insightful analysis. We have no doubt that it will assist players, of all standards, to improve through a better understanding of the subtleties of doubles play.
Please click on the pdf button below to view this booklet.
Dedanist has letter on tennis published in FT