The weekend of July 24/25th saw four cycling enthusiasts making the trip from Dublin to Paris to catch the final stage of the Tour de France. This offered the perfect opportunity to get in some time on a real tennis court and play some ‘jeu de paume’. Three of the travelling contingent had never seen a court before, but were keen to try a new sport in the wonderful setting of Fontainebleau.
An introductory lesson and some court time were arranged for the Friday afternoon on the court at the palace. After a short train and bus journey the party arrived just in time to see a former French national champion finishing off a hit with the Club professional. It was a treat to have so fine a demonstration of the sport as a first impression. After changing, we proceeded on court where the basics of swinging the racket and hitting the ball were demonstrated and practised. Early indications were positive with the newcomers taking to the initially difficult task of finding the ‘sweet spot’ on the racket very well indeed. Thus the programme intensified to suit the standard of the players. Balls off the roof were practised, before service and service return shots.
All were now ready to play a game. The rules were explained, as briefly as possible, before a doubles match was organised. David Lowry and Seamus Murphy were up against David Cahill and Kevin Sammon in the first tie. Despite a brave effort by Cahill and Sammon, ultimately Lowry and Murphy showed their class to progress. The second doubles match saw David Lowry and Kevin take on David Cahill and Seamus. This was close affair with neither pair being able to pull clear and the set was 4–4 at one point. However, winning service through an excellent chase earned by Kevin proved crucial. Kevin and David served out the set to win, 6–4. After the doubles had been completed some singles action got underway. Cycling rivalries were extended to the tennis court when Seamus Murphy took on David Cahill. Seamus and David have often duelled in the Wicklow Mountains and on the Hill of Howth on bicycles, but had never before been pitted against one another in this fashion. Predictably, both players fought hard to keep serve and chased down all balls, and few mistakes were made by either. Again the set was level at 4–4 before Seamus found some form and dispatched his opponent in ruthless fashion, winning the last game to love. Afterwards David Cahill and David Lowry took to the court, but experience showed as David Lowry came out on top. That concluded the day’s play and the players left to stroll around the impressive surroundings of the palace.
On Saturday 24th some more real tennis was played, this time on the Paris court. Alice Bentley, a Dublin University squash player, had travelled from Nice for the weekend for the tennis, and she and a Swiss friend oversaw proceedings. A match had been arranged between David Lowry and Philip, a local player. Although there was a handicap difference of 7 in favour of Philip, it was decided to play level. Philip took advantage early on, with David getting used to the surroundings, and raced to take the first set by 6 games to 2. The second set was a much closer affair. Again Philip took the early advantage but this time David battled hard to gain control of the service end and came back from 5–2 down to level it at 5–5. Unfortunately for David, this effort was in vain: he was eventually beaten by a superb force for the dedans. The opportunity to play against Philip was much appreciated. Afterwards David went on court with the local professional Rod McNaughtan, for a brief lesson. The focus was on the tactics of the game and Rod offered much in the way of advice and guidance about how to go about approaching a game at the standard of handicap 50 or so.
Finally, there was an opportunity to play some doubles: a fantastic way to put into action the skills and tactics learned during the lesson.
To top off an excellent but exhausting day at the Paris club some squash was played against local members.
Many thanks to the professionals at both clubs for so kindly accommodating our request to play over the weekend. Hopefully we will be in a position to extend an invitation to the French to play at the Dublin court in the near future!
— David Lowry, 2010-08-23