Gonville and Caius college
Gonville and Caius college

The last weekend in July saw the IRTA travel to Cambridge: the Irish group — almost all of whom were completely new to the game — enjoyed lessons with the professionals at the Cambridge University Real Tennis Club, plenty of time on the Cambridge courts, and even a glimpse or two of the university town in the sunshine. Arriving from Dublin at various hours, but all congregating in time for a lesson on the Saturday morning, the IRTA enthusiasts — among them regular players of squash, tennis, and hockey, as well a couple of formidable table-footballers — were introduced to real tennis by Kees Ludekens, the CURTC senior professional, and then spent much of the rest of the day familiarising themselves with the game and its distinctive characteristics.

Changing ends on court
Changing ends mid-game

Chief organiser from the Cambridge side was the CURTC Fixtures Secretary, Burak Salgin. Burak, although away from Cambridge over the weekend of our visit, had nonetheless arranged accommodation for us at his College, Gonville & Caius, only a short walk from the courts, as well as setting up our tennis schedule in consultation with Kees.

On the Sunday morning we were due on court for an early(ish) lesson with Peter Paterson, the assistant pro, so assembled even earlier to go in to breakfast in the College dining hall, only to find that it was to start at the time when we were due on court. Not an easy decision for some, one might suggest, but the tennis was (easily) the choice of all, and the improvers — already veterans of most of a day's play — were joined at the courts by another Irishman, currently based in London but also meeting real tennis for the first time. Following guidance from Peter, the group had the opportunity for increasingly competitive singles and doubles matches — with rotating partners and some local involvement — into the afternoon.

Roland, Kárlis, and David
Roland, Kárlis, David

As the weekend's play drew to a close because of the need to catch trains and aeroplanes, it became clear that far less of Cambridge had been seen than anyone had anticipated. We had emerged from the courts to find food once or twice in the course of the weekend, and on the Saturday evening a handful of the more imposing buildings had been admired. We crossed the Cam a number of times en route to and from the tennis courts and were unanimous in our agreement that punting might be pleasant. But as it turned out the tennis captured the weekend: most of the two days was spent playing or watching the efforts of others, and all of those who participated expressed their intention to get themselves on court again very soon.

Among other activities, the IRTA organises trips to play real tennis — please contact us for information on the next outing.