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The "tennist," one author's wonderful genderless word for tennis player, has been around for a little more than 100 years. The first and founding modern tennist, Major Walter Wingfield, a rich and fun-loving Englishman who sold sporting equipment, had of course seen "court tennis" played in its native France. Court tennis evolved as a castle courtyard pastime for monks and nobles even as other ball games evolved in Persia, South America, Africa, Asia (where heads of animals and human beings were used), and among the American Indians. The trick to court tennis (which is still played and was until recently dominated by an 80-year-old master named Pierre Etchebaster) was and is caroming the ball off brick walls, roofs, guardhouses, and other natural hazards of your aver- age medieval courtyard. A sort of racquet and cloth-wrapped ball are used. The ball (most often made of ancient linen taken from the uniforms of dead soldiers) is fairly hard. The few standard court-tennis courts in France have standard obstructions these days. Sports buff Wingfield had, of course, also seen Irish "fives" and English hand- ball played in Britain. These games (the forerunners of American handball) were invented in prison, which may explain the widely held but inaccurate American notion that handball is a game of the lower middle class. After considerable experiment at his Nantclwyd estate, the Major produced an eight-page rule book, now priceless, for a game he called Sphairistike, or Lawn Tennis. Greek was commonly taught in the public schools of the day, so that few of the Major's guests had trouble translating "Sphairistike" into the equivalent of "Play Ball!" The pamphlet and a short introductory course in the new game made the Major's Christmas tournament the of the 1873 social scene, cold- clothes and all.
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Book Description Contemporary Books, 1978. Hardcover. Condition: Used: Good. Seller Inventory # SONG0809278251