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1 January 2013

The Rules

Normal handicap RTA rules apply with the addition of a bisque per player, on condition that they wear a substantial tail throughout their match.

The Equipment

Court – Radley College Real Tennis Court
Balls – a cocktail of lawn tennis balls
Rackets – Lawn Tennis Rackets

Recommended Preparation

A hangover!

Cunning Ploys

Choose a junior for a partner to halve the hangover impact and to improve the strategy for using bisques.

The Evidence

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The Event

The unusual suspects gathered in two pools; half of the pairs played each other on Saturday 29 December and the others played on the following day. Subject to availability, the top four pairs from each day would regroup with refreshed hangovers for the finals on New Year’s Day. Tails ranged from stuffed socks to full morning suit and red devils to flashing animals.

Tactics soon started to emerge with Anthony and Charlie adopting a formation resembling a cross between badminton and lawn tennis to great effect.  However, it is horses for courses as, while their approach was successful against their first four opponents, they were undone by Julia and Peter.

Players gradually started to adapt to the strange bounce of the regular lawn tennis balls although bounces in the nicks and those into the dedans and winning gallery caught most out with unreasonable regularity. Bounces into the grille and onto the penthouse also took some by surprise, not to mention the bounces off the penthouse into the dedans and tambour into winning gallery.  It was refreshingly heart-warming to see players look at either balls or rackets after mis-hitting or misjudging balls; truly a compliment to the ball making and racket restringing skills of our professionals!

On top of the bounces into winning openings there were many hazard chases versus a drought of short chases. The sound of rain on the court roof reminded all that any other drought ended much earlier in the year.

The lighter bouncy balls clearly pleased some players more than others (Esse and Yorston families in particular) making the handicapper’s task trickier than normal but, on the whole, most dogs had their day, as did the horses, devils, leopards et al.

The first two days ended with healthy balances of satisfaction v disappointment and praise for the handicappers v cries of bandit. Above all we had a full draw for the final stages on New Year’s Day.

The remaining eight pairs were split into two groups with the top two of each group destined to progress to the semi-final.  Chris had adjusted all handicaps based on the previous day’s results. Most of the group results were close and some reversed the results of the earlier days, all in all confirmation that handicaps were having a fair impact.  It also became clear that all players were getting to grips with the equipment as the rallies were getting longer while chases and bounces into winning openings fewer.

The sense of fun continued as the competition moved towards a conclusion. The final was contested by Caroline & Ian Yorston against Vincent Graham & Rodas Irving. The pairs met earlier in the day; on that occasion Vincent and Rodas came out on top but who would win the final?

All four players started with confident hitting, big swinging volleys aimed at the grille and opponents and this was just the warm up!

Like all good finals the balance of play swung between pairs, not always helped by interesting bisque claims. Vincent and Rodas moved to a healthy 3-1 lead, needing 5 games to be the first to 8 games required for victory. At this stage Caroline and Ian gained the service end and rattled off a couple of quick games. The Yorstons continued to dominate serve and took the next 4 games; victory seemed inevitable. However, there was a twist in the tale (or should that be tail?) as free hitting saw Vincent and Rodas claw their way back to 7-7 while Benedict was counting the match points lost.

At this point banter in the dedans questioned whether anyone was running a book on the likely outcome. As  we all marvelled at the seemingly unlimited contortions that Ian managed while in formal tails Mick Dean suggested the coaching manual was being rewritten forever.

So, it was all on the final game. The points were long and closely contended with Caroline and Ian winning through. I think the phrase “watch and learn” will haunt Benedict for some time to come.


Many thanks go to Chris and John for their invention, organisation and for their encouraging marking of the event.

Thanks to all those who brought food and refreshments, especially to Maggie for her fabulous contribution and for suggesting the bring-and-share approach.

Finally, thanks to all of the competitors for once again entering into the spirit of the event which proved to be an inclusive, challenging and fun start to the New Year.


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