Real tennis is the original sport in which lawn tennis, commonly known as tennis, originated. Real Tennis itself was developed out of the sport of Jeu de Paume, a similar sport originally played without a racket and just the hand. Some records show that this game was derived from basque pelota, fistball, fives, Frisian handball, longue paume and valencian pilota.
Real tennis is called Jeu de paume in France in reference to this history. The sport is called court tennis in the United States, and sometimes known as royal tennis in England and Australia. It was called real tennis in the early 1900’s to distinguish it from the emerging modern lawn tennis. Most of the current players of this sport call it real tennis and call the modern tennis as lawn tennis.
Real tennis requires an indoor court of asymmetric dimensions. The game is still played on about 40 surviving courts in the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States and France.
The rules are the same with lawn tennis but are more complex. In real tennis, you win a set by six games without a two-game buffer like lawn tennis. Some competitions play up to nine games per set.
A real tennis match is usually best of three sets. Service in real tennis is always from the same end of the court. A real tennis court is enclosed by walls on all sides, which makes it different from the modern tennis.
In the 1908 Summer Olympics, Jeu de paume was a medal sport. It is assumed that rackets were used in this event, and the game was what we would call Real Tennis nowadays.
Alternate Names and Variations
- Called court tennis in the United States, royal tennis in England and Australia, Jeu de paume in France.
- Longue Paume — an outdoor version of jeu de paume, played without a net.
- Tennis (Lawn) — a court sport using a stringed racket to hit a ball over a net.
- Jeu de Paume — originally played with the hand, the precursor to real tennis and modern lawn tennis (essentially extinct)