World champ’s Petworth visit is a real tennis treat

Playing real tennis at Petworth are Oliver Harris, Gordon Woodman, Rob Fahey and Andrew Falk
Playing real tennis at Petworth are Oliver Harris, Gordon Woodman, Rob Fahey and Andrew Falk

Members of Petworth House Tennis Court were thrilled when world real tennis champion Rob Fahey played in a series of pro-am exhibition matches.

The event was to raise funds for the Dedanists’ Foundation, a registered charity which encourages young people to take up the game of real tennis.

Real tennis is the father of lawn tennis, having been played in its current format for some 400 years or maybe more.

There has been a real tennis court at Petworth House since the 16th century. The court is rather larger than a lawn tennis court and it is bounded by high walls and sloping roofs, off which the ball can be played.

The game has many similarities to lawn tennis in that scoring is 15, 30, 40, deuce and game and the ball is hit over a net with a strung racket.

In addition, there are many lines painted on the floor and the side walls are peppered with openings, every one of which has a different value.

Real tennis is a complex game which requires both mental and physical attributes. It is said that in about 1870 at Hatfield House, the then Marquess of Salisbury, found that his own real tennis court was booked up by his wife so he instructed his professional to set up an old net in the orchard and let his wife and her friends play outside with old rackets and balls.

Major Wingfield, long acknowledged as the inventor of the game of lawn tennis, witnessed this game and shortly after announced his new game … the rest is history.

Fahey was born in Tasmania in 1968 and became world champion in 1994. He has successfully defended his title on ten separate occasions. World real tennis champions remain as such until they are defeated in an authorised challenge match, or if they retire undefeated. So having Fahey visit Petworth was rather like have Novak Djokovic visit and play at the Petworth Lawn Tennis Club.

Fahey took part in three doubles matches which featured Petworth members Gordon Woodman, Andrew Falk and Oliver Harris.

An enthusiastic crowd enjoyed the play and a considerable amount was raised for the Dedanists’ Foundation which should go a long way to promoting real tennis in general and the encouragement of the young to take up this most demanding of games, rightly called the Sport of Kings and the King of Sports.

For further information about real tennis at Petworth, visit or call Chris Bray, head professional and former world No2, on 01798 343527, or walk into the Estate Yard and say hello to the duty professional, who will be pleased to show you the court.