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RACQUETS, or RACKETS

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Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 783 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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RACQUETS, or RACKETS, a game played in an enclosed court with a ball and an implement with which the ball is struck called a racquet, from which the game takes its name. The racquet' is about 22 It. long, the head, which was formerly pear-shaped, being in the modern racquet nearly circular, from 7 to 8 in. in diameter and tightly cross-strung with cat-gut. The balls, which are about 14 in. in diameter, are made of strips of cloth tightly wound over each other, with a sewn covering of smooth white leather, the floor and walls of English courts being coloured black; in India, where the floor and walls of the court are ,painted white, black balls are used. There are no regulation dimensions for a racquet court, nor for the racquet or ball, though substantial uniformity is observed in practice. The game is usually played either by two or by four players; and in England the court is the same for the four-handed and the two-handed game, the floor measuring usually 6o ft. by 30 ft., or occasionally an inch or two more each way; but in America larger courts measuring on the floor 8o ft. by 40 ft., a size formerly not i The word comes, through Fr. raqquelte, from Sp. and Port. raqueta. The origin is doubtful, but Arab. r¢ha(t), palm of the hand, has been suggested ; " fives " played with the hand long preceded the game with a bat; cf. also Fr. name for fives, paume.uncommon in England, are sometimes built for the four-handed game. Modern racquet courts have four walls and a roof, though in India they are sometimes left unroofed for the sake of coolness. The floor, which must be perfectly level and smooth, should be made of cement; but is sometimes paved, with less. perfect results. The floor cannot be too hard,. since the faster the ball travels the better the game; similarly the walls, which should be built of masonry faced with cement and most carefully smoothed, cannot be too hard and fast. The front and side walls are about 30 ft. high, the back wall being about half that height, with a gallery for spectators (containing the marker's and umpires' box) above it. The court is entered by a door in the centre of the back wall, which when shut must be perfectly flush with that wall, and without any projecting handle. The court is lighted from the roof. The diagram (fig. 2) a shows the divisions and markings of the court. On the front wall is fixed a wooden board, the upper edge of which, 26 in. from the floor, constitutes the " play-line," and which usually fills the whole space from that height to the floor; and at a height from the floor of 8 ft. or a few inches more is a second line, called the " cut-line " or " service-line," painted white or in colour. At a distance of 38 ft. (in a court 6o ft. by 30 ft.) from the front wall and parallel to it, a white line is painted on the floor from wall to wall, called the " short-line "; and from the centre of the short-line to the centre of the back wall is the " fault-line," dividing into two equal rectangles the space between the back wall and the short-line. These rectangles are the service-courts and are called the right-hand and left-hand court respectively. Against the side walls outside these courts, but so that one side in each case is formed by the short-line, are squares 8 ft. by 8 ft. called the service-boxes. The Game.—Racquets is usually played either by two persons (" singles "), or four persons playing two against two (" doubles ") ; and the general idea of the game is the same as that in tennis, lawn tennis and fives, the object of the player in all these games being to score a point by striking the ball either before it reaches the ground or on its first bound, in accordance with the rules of the game, in such a way that his adversary may fail to make a " good," i.e. a valid, stroke in return. In the four-handed game one of each set of partners takes the right-hand court and his partner the left. The game consists of 15 points called " aces." Aces can only be scored by the " hand-in " (the player, or side, having the "innings "), and the " hand-out " must therefore win a stroke or strokes to obtain innings before he or they can score an ace; in doubles " each of the partners has an innings, and both must therefore be: ousted before " hand-out " obtains the innings; but to this rule the first innings of each game affords an exception (see below). The " hand-in " always has " service," i.e. he opens the rally (the " rally " being the series of strokes made alternately. by the two sides until one or other of them fails to make a good return) by " serving " the ball from the hand. This first stroke, or " serve," must be made in the following manner. The server, standing with one foot at least inside one of the service-boxes, must toss the ball from his hand, and while it is in the air he must hit it with his racquet so that it strikes the front wall above the service-line and falls to the floor within the service-court on the opposite side; after striking the front wall the ball may, but need not, strike the side wall or back wall, or both, and it may do so either before or after touching the floor. The serve is a " fault " if the ball (I) strikes the front wall Elevation of End Wall 3 Service Line 8 fr floor Floor Level 4 3e' 4 op sr%vl« nox ;Short Line Servirr Ban .i Back Wan Is' high Gallery above above the board but on or below the service-line, in which case it is called a " cut "; or (2) touches the floor on the first bound, outside the proper service-court, when it is called short " or " fault " according to the position of its pitch (see below). If the " hand-out " player to whom the fault is served " takes " it (i.e. if he plays at it), the fault is condoned and the play proceeds as if the serve had been good. If, however, the fault be not taken, the server must serve again from the same box; and if he serves a second fault he loses his " hand " or innings', and his partner or his opponent, as the case may be, takes his place. Two consecutive faults have thus the same result as the loss of a stroke in the rally by the " hand-in." A serve which makes the ball strike the board, or the floor before reaching the front wall, or which sends it " out-of-court " (i.e. into the gallery or roof of the court), counts the same as two consecutive faults; it costs the server his innings. Skill in service is a most important part of proficiency in racquets; a player can hardly become first-rate unless he possesses a " strong service." As in tennis a great deal of " cut " may be imparted to the ball by the stroke of the racquet, which makes the ball in its rebound from the wall behave like a billiard ball carrying " side " when striking a cushion; and when this " cut " is combined with great pace in the bound of the ball off the side wall, the back wall, and the floor, at varying angles which the server has to a great degree under his control, it becomes exceedingly difficult for hand-out to " get up " the serve (i.e. to hit it on the first hound, sending it above the play-line on the back wall), and still more so to make a good stroke which will render it difficult for his adversary in his turn to get up the ball and thus continue the rally. It often happens, therefore, that a long sequence of aces, sometimes the whole 15 aces of a game, are scored consecutively by service which hand-out is unable to return. A noteworthy instance of successful service occurred in the semi-final tie of the doubles Amateur Championship matches at the Queen's Club in r897 when W. L. Foster opened service and scored all the aces in the first two games, and added six in the third, thus putting on a sequence of 36 aces before losing his " hand." To obtain first innings is therefore an initial advantage, although in doubles it is limited by the rule that only one partner shall have a " hand " (innings) in the opening service. The question which side shall have this advantage is decided by spinning a racquet, the " rough " and " smooth " sides of which take the place of " heads " and " tails " when a coin is tossed. The side winning the spin opens the game by serving as described above. The server may begin in either of the service boxes; but when he has started, the service must proceed from the two boxes alternately till the close of the innings of the side, whether singles or doubles. When the other side obtains the innings they may in like manner begin in either box, without regard to where the last service of their opponents was delivered. In singles, hand-out changes sides in the court after each serve, answering to the change over of the server; in doubles the serve is taken alternately by the two hand-out players, who permanently occupy the right- and left-hand courts respectively, being allowed to change the order in which they receive the service only once in any game, or at the end of any game or rubber. Except in the very rare case of left-handed players most of the play in the left half- of the court, including the taking of all service on that side, is back-handed; and the stronger of the two partners in back-hand play usually therefore takes the left-hand court. The best position in the court for the hand-out about to take the serve depends entirely on the nature of the service, and he has to use his judgment the instant the ball leaves the server's racquet in order to determine where it will strike the floor and at what precise point in its course it will be best for him to attempt to take it. A strong fast service, heavily cut, that sends the ball darting round the corner of the court, leaving the back wall at an extremely acute angle, or dropping almost dead off it, can only be got up by standing near the back wall a long way across the court and taking the ball by a wrist stroke at the last instant before it falls to the ground a second time. On the other hand when the server avoids theside wall altogether and strikes the back wall direct and hard, whether he achieves a " nick " serve (i.e. the ball striking precisely in the angle between the back wall and the floor) or hits the wall high up, hand-out will have little time to spare in changing position to get within reach of the ball. Some good players make a practice wherever possible, especially in the case of heavily cut service, of taking the serve on the volley (i.e. before the ball reaches the ground), sometimes of taking the ball after it leaves the side wall and before it reaches the back wall; practice alone enables the player to decide with the necessary promptitude how each stroke is to be played. In returning the serve, or in playing any stroke during the rally, the ball may strike any of the other walls before the front wall; but though this " boasted '-' stroke is quite legitimate, and is sometimes the only way of getting up a difficult ball, it is not considered good style deliberately to slash the ball round the corners in order to keep it in the fore end of the court. Good play consists for the most part in hard low hitting, especially as close as possible along the side walls into the corners of the back wall. One of the most effective strokes in racquets is the " drop," which means that the ball is hit so that it only just reaches the front wall and drops close to it, while the player conceals his intention by appearing to strike hard. " The drop-stroke," says.Mr Eustace Miles, who regrets that it is less cultivated than formerly, " is one of the most beautiful, and of all drop-strokes, the volley or half-volley is the best." The " half-volley," in which the ball is struck at the moment of its contact with the floor and before it has had time to rise, is also employed with great effect in hard play; it makes the return much quicker than when the ball is allowed to rise to the full length of the bound, and requires corresponding quickness on the part of the adversary. It sometimes happens, too, that the player finding himself too near the pitch of the ball to take it at the end of the bound, yet not near enough to volley it, is compelled to take it on the half-volley as the only chance of getting it up. Accuracy in volleying and half-volleying, especially if the ball be kept low, is a most difficult art to acquire, but a good long rally in which are included a number of hard rapid half-volleys within a couple of inches of the board, is the prettiest feature of the game. If hand-out succeeds in returning the serve, the rally proceeds until one side or the other fails to make a good return. A good return means (r) that the ball is struck by the racquet before its second bound on the floor, and without its having touched any part of the clothes or person of the striker or his partner; (2) that it is hit against the front wall above the board without first touching the floor or going out of court; and (3) that it returns off the front wall into play (i.e. to the floor of the court or to an adversary's racquet) without going out of court. If hand-in be the one to fail in making a good return, he loses his " hand, or innings, and (in singles) hand-out goes in and proceeds to serve; in doubles one of the hand-in partners loses his " hand," and the second partner goes in and serves till he in turn similarly loses his " hand," except that in the case of the opening service in the game there is (as already mentioned) only one " hand " in any event. If hand-out fails to make a good return to the serve or to any stroke in the rally, hand-in scores an ace, and the side that first scores 15 aces wins the game. When, however, the score reaches " 13-all " (i.e. when each side has scored 13 aces), hand-out may, before the next serve is delivered, declare that he elects to " set " the game either to 5 or 3, whichever he prefers; and similarly when the score stands at " 14-all," hand-out may " set " the game to 3. He makes this declaration by calling " set-5 ! or " set-3 I" and it means that 5 aces, or 3 aces, as the case may be, shall be required to win the game. In the confined space of a racquet court itis not always easy, especially in doubles, for the players to avoid obstructing each other. It is provided in the rules that " each player must get out of his opponents' way as much as possible," and that it shall be a " let " (an Old English word for impediment or hindrance) and " the service or rally shall count for nothing. and the server shall serve again from the same service-box, (a) if the ball in play touch the striker's opponent on or above schools and, universities improved the play of amateurs. William the knee, and if in the marker's opinion it be thereby pre- Gray beat Foulkes, the champion of America, in 1867; Henry vented from reaching the front wall above the board (the play- Gray and Joseph Gray were also great players. The latter line); or (b) if either player undesignedly prevent his opponent was beaten in 1875 by H. B. Fairs (" Punch ") but held the from returning the ball served in play." If a player considers championship from 1878 to 1887. Another member of the same that he has been thus obstructed by his opponent he may family was Walter Gray, who was as distinguished for the " claim a let," and the marker adjudicates his claim. The power of his stroke as his brother William was for the accuracy marker's decision is final; but " if in doubt which way to of his " drop " and the ease and grace of his volley and half-decide, the marker may direct that the ace be played over again." volley. Walter Gray was followed in the championship by It is the duty of the marker, who occupies a box in the gallery, Peter Latham, the first professional to combine the open Tennis to " call the game." As soon as the server serves the ball the Championship with the Racquets Championship; and in the marker calls "Play!" if the ball strikes the front wall above opinion of Mr Eustace Miles " there has probably lived no the service-line; and "Cut!" if it strikes below the service- player who could have beaten him at either game." Latham line; if the ball falls in front of the short-line the marker was the first to use the heavily cut service at racquets, and he calls " Short! "; if the wrong side of the fault-line he calls is also remarkable for the power of his wrist stroke. In the "Fault ! "; but whether it be "cut," "short," or "fault," last twelve years or so of the 19th century Latham stood alone, the serve counts as a fault in its effect. To every good return, and in the opinion of the best judges he was the greatest of all as to every good serve, the marker calls "Play!" If a return racquet players. When once he had won the championship he is made after the second bound of the ball (called a " double ") never lost it, and when at last he resigned his title he was sue-the marker calls "Double!" or "Not up!"; if the ball is hit seeded by Gilbert Browne, a player of a decidedly inferior into the gallery, or against its posts or cushions, or above calibre, who in 1903 was challenged and beaten by an Indian the girders or cross-beams of the roof, he calls " Out-of-court!" marker called Jamsetji. For the next six years, during which At the end of every rally he calls the state of the game, always Jamsetji held the championship, comparatively little was naming first the score of hand-in:—" One-love" (love .being heard of professional racquets; but in 1909 interest was revived the term for zero) meaning that hand-in has scored one ace by a handicap at Queen's Club for a prize of £loo, in which and hand-out nothing, " Two-love," " Five-all," " Five-ten," Peter Latham himself took part, and which was won by Jennings " Fourteen-eleven," and so on, till one side has scored 15, when of Aldershot. As a result of this contest a challenge was issued the marker calls "Game!" He then in similar fashion calls the by W. Hawes, the marker at Wellington College, to play any state of the match—" Two games to one," or whatever it may other professional for £200 a side and the championship of be'—before the commencement of the next game. The server England. The challenge was accepted by C. Williams, a young in possession at the end of the game continues to serve in the player of Prince's Club, who easily won the match, and with it new game, subject as before to the rule limiting the first innings the title of champion. of the game to a single " hand." The usual number of games in The institution of annual matches between Oxford and Cambridge matches is five for singles, and seven for doubles. In matches Universities in 1858, and of the Public Schools Championship in where there are umpires and a referee, there is an appeal to them 1868, gave an immense stimulus to the game among amateurs. from the marker's decision except as regards questions relating Of the 51 inter-university (singles) matches from 1858 to 19o8, Oxford won 26 and Cambridge the service, on which the marker's decision is final. doubles 25; the 52 contests in doub bles Oxford won 25 and Cambridge 27. . Among the public Records.—Attempts have been made to trace racquets, schools Harrow has been far the most successful, having won the like tennis, to an ancient origin; but although it is doubtless championship challenge cup 19 times out of 42 contests. true that the striking of a ball with the hand or some primitive Moreover, under the condition permitting any school winning it in three consecutive years to retain the challenge cup permanently, form of bat is one of the oldest forms of pastimes, and that Harrow became possessed of three cups, having won the champion-racquets has been evolved from such an- origin, the game as ship 1871-1874 inclusive, 1879-1881 inclusive, and 1883-1887 in-now known can hardly be said to have existed before the elusive. The next most successful school has been Eton, eight 19th century. Joseph Strutt's work on The Sports and Pastimes times champion; Charterhouse having won five times, and no of the People pi England, published at the beginning of the of the of contest, sc more than three times. For the first twenty yea rs st, with a single exception when Rugby won in 18 0, 19th century, makes no mention of racquets; and the century no school except Eton or Harrow gained the championship; and it was far advanced before the racquet court was promoted from is not surprising therefore that the majority of famous amateurs being an adjunct of the pot-house and the gaol, in which con- learnt the game at one or other of these schools. Among Etonians were W. Hart-Dyke, C. J. Ottaway, the Hon. Alfred Lyttelton, nexion the court within the purlieus of the Fleet prison has the Hon. No Bligh (afterwards Lord Darnley), C. T. Studd and H. been immortalized in the pages of Pickwick, to a position Philipson; Harrow has produced R. D. Walker, one of the best scarcely less dignified than that of the tennis-court with its of the earliest amateur racquet players, C. F. Buller, T. S. Dury, royal and historical associations. It was at the public schools A. J. Webbe, M. C. Kemp, E. M. Butler, the, brothers Eustace that racquets first obtained repute. The school courts were at Crawley and H. E. Crawley, C. D. Buxton, H. M. Leaf, Percy Ash- worth and C. Browning. The famous Malvern family of Foster first unroofed, and in some cases open also at the back and has been as conspicuous in the racquet court as on the cricket field, sides, or on one side. Among the most famous of the early the eldest, H. K. Foster, being probably the finest amateur player racquets professionals, before the period of the modern closed of his generation. F. Dames Longworth, Major A. Cooper-Key, Robert Mackay (182o), brothers Thomas and Colonel Spens, E. M. Baerlein and Eustace H. Miles have also been court, were Y ( )r in the front rank of amateur players. The opening of the Queen's John Pittman, J. Lamb, J. C. Mitchell and Francis Erwood Club, West Kensington, was a notable event in the history of (1860). One of the most famous matches ever played at the game, especially as it was followed by the establishment of racquets was that in which Erwood was beaten by Sir William amateur championships in singles and doubles in 1888; of which the Hart-Dyke, who used the " drop " stroke with telling effect results have been as follows: and who, after representing Oxford in the first four inter- AMATEUR CHAMPIONSHIP I. Singles university matches, was the only amateur racquet player 1888. C. D. Buxton. ' 1900. H. K. Foster. who ever defeated the open champion. A notable date in 1889. E. M. Butler. 1901. F. Dames Longworth. the history of racquets was the year 1853, when the court 189o. P. Ashworth. 1902. E. H. Miles. at the old Prince's Club in Hans Place, London, was built. 1891. H. Philipson. 1903. E. M. Baerlein. K Here the annual racquet matches between Oxford and Cam- 1893. F. Dames Longworth. 1905. H. M. Foster. 1893. F. Dames Longworth. 1905. E. M M. Baerlein. bridge Universities, singles and doubles, were first played in 1894. H. K. Foster. 1906. S. H. Sheppard. 1858, and the Public Schools Championship (doubles only) 1895. H. K. Foster. 1907. E. B. Noel. ten years later. Modern racquets may perhaps be said to date 1896. H. K. Foster. 1908. E. M. Baerlein. from the time of the brothers Gray, who as professionals greatly 1898. H. K. Foster. 1910.E. M. Baerlein. raised the standard of skill in the game, and as teachers at the •1899. H. K. Foster. II. Doubles 1890. P. Ashworth and W. C. Hedley. 1891. P. Ashworth and E. L. Metcalfe. 1892. E. M. Butler and M. C. Kemp. 1893. F. H. Browning and H. K. Foster. 1894. H. K. Foster and F. C. Ridgeway. 1895. F. Dames Longworth and F. H. Browning. 1896. H. K. Foster and P. Ashworth. 1897. H. K. Foster and P. Ashworth. 1898. H. K. Foster and W. L. Foster. 1899. H. K. Foster and P. Ashworth. 1900. H. K. Foster and P. Ashworth. 1901. F. Dames Longworth and V. H. Pennell. 1902. E. M. Baerlein and E. H. Miles. 1903. H. K. Foster and B. S. Foster. 1904. E. H. Miles and E. M. Baerlein. 1905. E. H. Miles and E. M. Baerlein. 1906. E. H. Miles and F. Dames Longworth. 1907. W: L. Foster and B. S. Foster. 1908. F. Dames Longworth and V. H. Pennell. 1909. E. M. Baerlein and P. Ashworth., 1910. B. S. Foster and Hon. C. N. Bruce. A military championship was inaugurated in 1903 and is played annually at Princes' Club. In 1908, mainly through the exertions of Major A. Cooper-Key, a " Tennis, Racquets and Fives Association " was founded for the purpose of encouraging these games, safeguarding their interests and providing a legislative body whose authority would be recognized by all tennis and racquet players. Racquets in America.—In the United States and in Canada racquets is a popular game, and most of the leading athletic clubs have good courts. The American champions Foulkes, Boakes and George Standing were all beaten by English professionals, but had a great reputation in their own country; and Tom Pettitt, Ellis and Moore are names that stand high in the records of the game. Among American amateurs, Lamontayne did much to encourage racquets in New York in the early period of its history; and in more recent times Quincy Shaw, de Garmendia, R. Fearing, Payne Whitney, Mackay, L. Waterbury and P. D. Haughton have shown themselves racquet players of very high merit, although Mr Eustace Miles is of opinion that " an English player like H. K. Foster, or Dames Longworth, or Ashworth, would give any American amateur upwards of seven aces." Squash racquets is a form of the game which provides admirable practice for the beginner, and has advantages of its own which offer attractions even to those who are proficient players of real racquets. It is played with a hollow indiarubber ball about the size of a fives ball (i.e. nearly twice the size of an ordinary racquet ball) and with a racquet rather shorter in the handle than those used in racquets proper. The court may be of any dimensions, but is always much smaller than a real racquet court; the squash ball, being not nearly so fast as the racquet ball, would not reach the back wall in a 6o ft. court on the first bound unless hit high as well as hard against the front wall. The rules of the game itself are precisely the same as in real racquets. Squash racquets originated at Harrow, where the boys were in the habit of playing in an improvised court in the corner of the school-yard against the old school building; the windows, buttresses and water-pipe on the face of the wall forming irregularities which developed great skill on the part of the players in taking advantage of the difficulties thus caused. The marked success of Harrow in the Public Schools Championship at racquets, especially during the first twenty years of its institution (see above), has been attributed to the early training and practice gained at squash racquets in the school-yard, and in other courts which came into use as the popularity of this form of the game increased. Towards the end of the 19th century squash racquets became adopted at other schools and at the universities; and as the court is much cheaper to build than that required for real or " hard ball " racquets, and the game is cheaper as well as easier to play, many private courts came into existence. On the initiative of Lord Desborough, who had learnt the game at Harrow, several squash courts were provided at the Bath Club, London, where handicap tournaments are annually played. At Lord's cricket ground, when a new pavilion was erected in 1890, squash racquet courts were included in the building. The dimensions of the courts at Lord's, which may be taken as the best model, are as follows: length 42 ft. by 24 ft.; height of back wall 8 ft. 8 in.;height of service-line from floor 8 ft. 9 in.; height of play, line 2 ft. 4 in. The short-line is 23 ft. from the front wall. The place which squash racquets has come to occupy may be estimated from the fact that Mr. Eustace Miles pronounces it " an almost indispensable preparation " for tennis and racquets as those games are played under modern conditions; and the same authority sufficiently describes its merits when he observes that it " gives, at a small cost of time or money, abundance of hard and brisk and simple yet exciting exercise for all times of life , of the year, and even of the day—if we have good artificial light." The squash courts at Lord's and at the Bath Club are lighted by electricity, so that play is not dependent on the condition of the atmosphere, or on the season of the year. See Tennis, Lawn Tennis, Rackets and Fives in the " Badminton Library "; Racquets, Tennis and Squash, by Eustace Miles (London, 1902) ; Sporting and Athletic Register (London, 1908). (R. J. M.)
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