On Saturday June 28th a group of Irish lawn tennis enthusiasts, fresh from enjoying the action at SW19 the day before, took to the real tennis court at Middlesex University in North London. The participants were largely made up of accomplished squash and lawn tennis players from Ireland, though the majority had never been on a real tennis court before.

Mark Heffernan and David Lowry took the players through a brief outline of the rules before some hitting took place. The nuances of the game became quite apparent early on and bemused some of the group. Having previously been under the assumption that hitting a ball over a net and back with a racket was a simple thing, the difficulties of striking the ball in the sweet spot on a real tennis court was something of a struggle. Eventually the group seemed to gather that the rule of ‘less is more’ when learning the game is the best tactic. A slowing down of the racket head speed when swinging led to a more success and the group moved from striking the ball to serving.

The skills picked up through years of playing various codes of rackets sports were employed as unique and effective service techniques were demonstrated. It was not long practising the serve before the return was explained and the group were practising that.

Finally, the beginners were ready to play some doubles against one another. The chase rules were simplified by placing a ball on the chase mark which seemed an excellent way for for the group to grasp what usually takes a few games to fully understand. The natural targets on the courts such as the tambour and the dedans seemed to be ignored as the group reverted to almost playing lawn tennis on a real tennis court (serving aside). Nonetheless it was a great start and introduction to the game for so many participants. After over two hours on court, the group were left wanting more and hopefully it won’t be too long before they pick up a racket again.

Many thanks to Mark Heffernan and the pros at the Middlesex Club for allowing access and facilitating the event.

— David Lowry