The International Real Tennis Professionals Association (IRTPA) and the Tennis & Rackets Association (T&RA) are the governing bodies of real tennis, a game described as the ‘sport of kings’. It is the original racquet sport that gave rise to the modern game of tennis we know today. Other names for the sport are court tennis (USA), royal tennis (Australia) and courte-paume (France). The term real was to distinguish it from lawn tennis, even though it is rarely contested on lawns. The most common real court is of a very considerable size that is longer and wider than a lawn tennis court. The high building walls and ceiling are substantial enough to encompass almost the highest lob shots. The court is enclosed by four walls. Three of the walls have sloping roofs with openings for spectators. These are also known as penthouses.
The word tennis is believed to come from the French word tenez. Real tennis would have been established from other sports played during the 1100s like palla (Italy), fives (England), pelota (Spain) and handball (Ireland). All these ball games are played with a bare or gloved hand. Royal interest in real tennis began with Henry V, but it was Henry VIII who became the most involved often playing at Hampton Court. The game thrived among the elite during the 1600s but started a decline in popularity during the 1700s. It was during the Victorian era that the popularity revived, but by found itself sidelined by the growth of lawn tennis. The equipment includes balls like in lawn tennis, but less bouncy. The 27-inch racquets are made of wood with very tight strings to cope with the heavier balls.
Today there are over 50 active real tennis clubs around the world in countries like United Kingdom, Unite States, Australia and France. There are several organisations around the world who support real tennis to keep the sport alive for future generations.