Up on the second floor, hidden behind the facade of a tall Haussmann creating not far from the Arc de Triomphe, is the Jeu de Paume Club, the only active court tennis club in Paris.
The members of the club, like the players at Wimbledon in England, are dressed all in white, and they contact out the scores “quinze!” and “trente!” just the exact same as the umpires a couple of miles west, at Roland Garros, exactly where the French Open is getting played by way of June 11.
Contemporary tennis, or lawn tennis, which was formally invented in England in the 1870s, bears numerous of the traces of court tennis, not least the standard vocabulary of scoring, even if no one particular has definitively confirmed if it is referenced from medieval horological sources or the paces that a player sophisticated when he won a point in the game of longue paume, the ancestor of most racket sports but especially lawn tennis, which has been played in villages across France given that the 13th century.
Court tennis, also identified as genuine tennis, created 200 years later, according to Gil Kressmann, a historian and the honorary president of the Jeu de Paume Club, as cities evolved in France and walled courts replaced the substantial open spaces previously applied for longue paume. The sport took off across Europe and Britain, exactly where it was championed by Henry VIII.
The courts in France then, as now, had been managed by pros identified as maîtres paumiers, who performed in matches, gave lessons and produced the balls and rackets. As for the final requirement, Guillaume Dortu, the present club skilled at the Palace of Fontainebleau, did not hide his relief that “mercifully, pros do not have to do that now.”
But he and other club pros like Rod McNaughtan in Paris are the only men and women permitted to sell court tennis rackets, which are nevertheless constructed of wood. Every single month, they make one hundred to 150 balls, cautiously weighing the difficult core of cork and cotton webbing prior to stitching the thick yellow felt exterior by hand. They also clean the court each day.
Enthusiasm for the game began to wane at the finish the 17th century, and it was linked to gambling and much less salubrious events such as when the Italian painter Michelangelo Merisi, superior identified as Caravaggio, killed an opponent on a tennis court in Rome in 1606, top to his getting banished from the city. In France, the game’s reputation suffered beneath Louis XIV, whose heavy physique discouraged him from playing. He was keener on billiards.
The French Revolution, which started in 1789, distracted from the game, even though one particular of the revolution’s founding moments, the Tennis Court Oath, took spot in the tennis court at Versailles, exactly where deputies convened right after getting locked out of the palace, swearing not to disband till France had a constitution.
Currently, the sport is played competitively in the 4 nations that also make up tennis’s Grand Slam: France, exactly where the game is identified as jeu de paume Britain and Australia, exactly where it goes by genuine tennis and the United States, house of the present men’s planet champion, Camden Riviere. There are just more than 50 courts in the planet, and the prohibitive expense of constructing new courts is a main challenge. Though the game is gaining in reputation, there are only about ten,000 active players.
What ever they could lack in numbers, court tennis players make up for with enthusiasm. When asked to describe the sport, they most often evaluate it to chess and say its cerebral demands are as critical, if not additional so, than the physical ones.
Players take pride in the esoteric nature of the game as effectively as its asymmetrical court with buttress, galleries, quite a few nooks and crannies with odd names and the reality that no two courts in the planet are specifically the exact same. Therein lies the challenge for players like Matthieu Sarlangue, who is ranked No. ten in the planet and is a 13-time French amateur champion. “Technically it is really hard and demanding,” he mentioned. “You truly have to master the techniques since there are so numerous possibilities on the court.”
The game is a sporting conundrum, one particular that Martin Village, a 70-year-old court tennis enthusiast from London and member of the Dedanists’ Society, a modest group of British players devoted to the history of the sport, explained basically.
“If you wanted to design and style a game that was going to place men and women off from playing it,” he mentioned, “you would in all probability design and style a genuine tennis court. But that is why it is a supply of endless fascination.”