The first thing you will notice is that the court is very different to the tennis courts that you are familiar with. In addition the balls are solid and are handmade here at Canford. To cope with the weight of the ball, the wooden rackets need to be equally weighty and robust (graphite rackets are banned!).
The next thing you will notice when you watch a game is that the players do not hit topspin as they do in the modern game. Topspin makes the ball rise off the back wall making it easier for the opponent to get the ball back.
As in normal tennis, the court is divided by a net into two ends. The end from which you are viewing is called the Service end. The service is always delivered from this end and must be hit onto the sloping roof on the left called the penthouse. The far side of the court is called the Hazard end.
The basic objective of the game is to return the ball either after the first bounce or on the volley. Points are lost when errors are made (e.g. by hitting the ball into the net or out of court). Points may however also be won by hitting the ball into one of the winning openings . These are the dedans (the opening through which you can see the above photo is taken), the grille, (the blue square in the far right of the court) and the the winning gallery (the furthest opening on the left, and yes it does have a bell in it!). Scoring in Real Tennis is the same as that adopted by its younger relation (i.e. 15, 30, 40, deuce, advantage, game) save that in Real Tennis the winner of the last point is always called first. The first player to reach six games wins the set, even if the other player has won five games.
The major difference between the two games is the chase. If the ball bounces twice or enters one of the galleries in the service end a “chase” is laid. Neither player wins the rally and the point is suspended. When two chases are created, or game point is reached with one chase, the players change ends. Then the suspended point(s) are replayed and decided. To win the point the receiver must better his opponents chase by getting the second bounce nearer to the dedans.
The basic strategy of the game is to dominate the service end. The only way for a player to gain the service end is to set a chase (the players never change ends at the end of the game).