RACKETS. Like tennis, this game of ball is of French origin, and its name is derived from " raquette," the French term for the bat used in the pastime. In the United Kingdom it is not so universally pursued as cricket and football, and is essentially an indoor game, which is played only in prepared and covered courts. Such buildings have been erected at many of the large public schools, at the universities, and in garrison towns, where will be found the chief exponents of rackets, a game which requires active running powers, quick eyesight, and dexterity of hand.
RIGHT SERVICE SPACE
LEFT SERVICE SPACE
LEFT BACK COURTS.
MGHT BACK COURT
The old " open " courts, which merely consisted of a plain wall without any side walls, are now almost obsolete and need not be further mentioned. The usual dimen-sions of a "close" court are 80 feet by 40 feet for four-handed matches, whilst 60 feet by 30 feet are sufficient for a single match. Sometimes courts are built of an intermediate size so as to be available for either single or double matches. The front wall of a court should be 40 feet high, the back one 14 feet, the space over the latter being utilized by a gallery for specta-tors, umpire, and marker. The side walls are 40 feet high throughout, in order to support the roof. This must be well lit with skylights carried on light iron girders
and protected inside with wire-work in order to ward off damage from the balls. Bricks make the best walls, which must be plastered inside with Roman cement or plaster of Paris, set to a perfectly level surface in order that the balls may rebound evenly. In the military officers' courts in India this plaster is painted white for the sake of coolness, and black balls are in vogue. In England black paint and white balls are used. In cool climates asphalt makes the best flooring. In the tropics stone paving, perfectly evenly set, or some similar material, must be used. Gutta-percha soles to the shoes of the players are indis-pensable, to prevent slipping and to preserve the evenness of the flooring. The narrow entrance door, made of very hard wood, is situated in the centre of the back wall and must be perfectly flush with the same on the inside. The bottom of the front wall is covered with hollow deal sound-ing boarding up to a height of 2 feet 2 inches, where is the " line." The sound betrays a ball striking the board-ing below the line, which throws it out of play. At 7 feet 9 inches above the level of the floor comes another white line across the front wall, termed the "cut line," because the in-player, when serving, must first make the ball re-bound from the front wall above this line. Across the floor, varying in position according to the length of the court, is the "short line," so called because an out-player is not bound to take any ball served which falls between it and the front wall. The space between here and the back wall is divided into two equal-sized parallelograms by a line drawn down to the doorway. As the front wall is faced, these are called "right" and "left" courts. An in-player serving from one side must make the ball fall in the other court after rebounding from the front wall. The " service spaces," in which an in-player stands when serving, are 8 feet 6 inches deep from the short line and 6 feet 6 inches wide from each side wall.
The game is played with no other implements but bats and balls. The striking portion of the former is oval-shaped and strung tightly across with catgut. The handle is of pliant ash covered with leather in order to give the hand a tight grip. The balls are about 1J inches in diameter, and very hard in order to rebound evenly and quickly.
In a four-handed game we will suppose A and R to be playing against C and D and that the former couple have won the choice of first innings. A accordingly commences serving from the right service space into the left court, that being the most difficult one to return the ball from. B stands behind A to return any balls for his side in the back portion of the court. C stands where he likes ready to take the ball about to be served by A, whilst C's partner, D, places himself between A and B to take the fore court play for his side. For A's service to be good his ball must first strike the front wall above the cut line, and secondly rebound from the floor of the left-hand court, though whether it strike the side or back walls or not after rebounding from the front wall is immaterial. If these rules are complied with, G is bound to return the ball, at its first bound off the floor, on to the front wall above the sounding-board. If he does not succeed A and B score one ace in their favour. If C achieves his purpose the game is continued by one of either side returning the ball alternately, till a player either strikes the sound-ing board, skies it into the roof or gallery, or strikes it later than the first bound off the floor. If A or B makes the first failure A is out. If it is C or D, the in-side scores an ace, and A continues serving alternately from each service space. The out-player may take a faulty service at his own option. If he does, the ace is played out in the usual way. When A is put out C goes in, then D, and lastly A's partner B, and so on in the same rotation. B is not allowed to follow A's first hand, as the latter has the advan-tage of possibly scoring the first ace. The player who gains the last ace of a game continues serving for the next. The mode of procedure in a single-handed match is precisely the same, each player going in alternately, but having no partner to aid him. It often happens that both sides go in and out several times running without scoring. The most difficult kind of services to take are the sharp "cut," which strikes the front wall just above the cut line and rebounds with great velocity, and the "nick" into the back corner of the court served into. Other strokes are the " drop," which places the ball only just above the wooden board, making it fall almost dead ; the " volley," in which the ball is struck in the full before touching the floor ; and lastly, the " cut," by which the ball acquires a twisting or rotatory spin as well as a forward motion caused by a descending diagonal stroke with the bat. The follow-ing are the rules of rackets as drawn up and used at Prince's Club, London, the leading racket club of the United Kingdom.
1. The game to be 15 up. At 13 all, the out-players may set it to 5, and at 14 all, to 3, provided this be done before another ball is struck.
2. The going in first, whether odds be given or not, to be decided by lot; but one hand only then is to be taken.
3. The ball to be served alternately from right and left, beginning whichever side the server pleases.
4. In serving, the server must have one foot in the space marked off for that purpose. The out-player to whom he serves may stand where he pleases, but his partner and the server's partner must both stand behind the server till the ball is served.
5. The ball must be served above, and not touching the line on the front wall, and it must strike the floor, before it bounds, within and not touching the lines enclosing the court on the side opposite to that in which the server stands.
6. A ball served below the line, or to the wrong side, is a fault, but it may be taken, and then the ace must be played out, and counts.
7. In serving, if the ball strikes anywhere before it reaches the front wall, it is a hand out.
8. In serving, if a ball touches the server or his partner before it has bounded twice it is a hand out, whether it was properly served or not.
9. It is a fault
a. If the server is not in his proper place.
b. If the ball is not served over the line.
c. If it does not fall in the proper court.
d. If it touches the roof.
e. If it touches the gallery-netting, posts, or cushions.
The out-player may take a fault if he pleases, but if he fails in putting the ball up it counts against him.
10. Two consecutive faults put a hand out.
11. An out-player may not take a ball served to his partner.
12. The out-players may change their courts once only in each game.
13. If a player designedly stops a ball before the second bound it counts against him.
14. If a ball hits the striker's adversary above or on the knee, it is a let; if below the knee, or if it hits the striker's partner or himself, it counts against the striker.
15. Till a ball has been touched, or has bounded twice, the player or his partner may strike it as often as they please.
16. Every player should get out of the way as much as possible. If he cannot, the marker is to decide whether it is a let or not.
17. After the service, a ball going out of the court or hitting the roof is an ace ; a ball hitting the gallery-netting, posts, or cushions, in returning from the front wall, is a let; but if it hits the roof before reaching the front wall it counts against the striker.
IS. The marker's decision is final. If he has any doubt, he should ask
advice; and, if he cannot decide positively, the ace is to be played over
again. (H. F. W.)
The above article was written by: H. F. Wilkinson.