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Know the Game - What is Rackets?

Know the Game - What is Rackets?

Rackets: Get to know the fastest ball sport in the world

So we've been long lobbied to write a piece on the sport of Rackets, which is the predecessor of 'Squash Rackets', simply now known as 'Squash'.

In the USA the game is spelt ‘Racquets’, but it played by the same rules in every respect, aside from the serve, where in the UK you have two serves (first and second) , in the US you only have one.

For a history of Rackets you can check out Wikipedia we are looking at the game itself.

Suffice to say this is one of the most thrilling, difficult and frankly quite crazy sports out there.

This is a long video, good rallies at around 20 mins 30 min and various others, just flick through

Rackets : The Game - perhaps the fastest ball sport in the world

The game is played exclusively in North America and the United Kingdom. There are around 28 courts in the UK, some of which are not considered active or are used for other sports. There are 8 active courts in North America.

But how best to describe the most exhilarating of games? In a nutshell, if you stretched a squash court about 3 times in length, in all directions, installed some solid walls, and played squash on it with a golf ball, you'd be pretty close.

It scores like Squash used to, with points only won when serving. In the U.K the server gets 2 serves, in the U.S just one.

The Rackets court at Radley College

The Rackets court at Radley College

Rackets - The Court

The Rackets court is 30 feet wide, 60 feet long and at least 30 feet high. A rock hard 1.5-inch white ball is hit with wooden rackets which are strung ultra-tight. This results in some serious velocity and unlike other racket sports, the ball appears to gain pace when hit in to the side walls.

The hardness of the ball not only makes for a quick game, but for a potentially dangerous one, so safety is paramount. There are many more lets in Rackets than in Squash as a result, and in a doubles match, this number rises even further.

There have been a few arguments over the years as to whether it is the fastest ball sport. The ball has been recorded going at speeds of over 150mph, which the Jai Alai community can better according to the Guinness book of records. If it were possible to measure the speed of a ball during an actual rally (rather than hit out of the hand) this record could no doubt be challenged?  

Rackets Courts around the World

UK courts and when they were built

Charterhouse School, Surrey - 1877

Cheltenham College, Gloucestershire - 1868

Clifton College, Bristol - 1872

Eton College, Berkshire - 1868, 2 courts rebuilt 1903

Haileybury College, Hertfordshire - 1908

Harrow SchoolMiddlesex - 1865, rebuilt 2019

Malvern College, Worcestershire - First court 1881, second court 1905

Marlborough College, Wiltshire - First court 1881, second court 1893

Radley College, Oxfordshire - 1887

Rugby School, Warwickshire - First court 1864, second court 1883

St Paul's School, London - 2001

Tonbridge School, Kent - 1887, second court 2012

Wellington College, Berkshire - 1867, refurbished in 2005

Winchester College, Hampshire - First court 1872, second court 1911

Courts in the USA & Canada

Racquet Club of Chicago (2 Courts)

Detroit Racquet Club

New York Tennis & Racquet Club

Racquet Club of Philadelphia (2 Courts)

Tuxedo Park

Montreal Racquet Club

Stout & Gooding Vs Snell & James at The Queens Club

Stout & Gooding Vs Snell & James at The Queens Club

Rackets : The Major tournaments

The Rackets Calendar traditionally runs from September until April with major tournaments in the UK being, amongst others,  the 'British Open Singles', the 'Invitation Singles', the 'British Amateur' and the 'British Open Doubles'.

The majority of major Rackets events are played at The Queens Club in London, with more minor and qualifying tournaments played at numerous venues around the U.K. 

In North America major events include the 'U.S Amateur', the 'Canadian Amateur' at the Montreal Racquet Club and the 'U.S Open', which changes venue every year. 

Rackets is well known amongst participants as an extremely social sport. As a game with a high degree of difficulty, many competitors are resigned to achieving limited success in tournaments, and thus set their sights on success at the bar.

James Stout and Jo Larken

James Stout and Jo Larken - former World Doubles Champions

Rackets - The Players 

There have been 23 World Champions since 1820, a mixture of professionals and amateurs. Almost all have come from the U.K or the U.S aside from the former World Champion James Stout (Bermuda) and the 1903-1911 Champion Jamsetji Merwanji (India).

The current World Champion is Ben Cawston, beating Tom Billings of the UK, in the World Championship in 2023.

In the last decade, the Singles Amateur game has been dominated by Britain's Alex Titchener-Barrett who was also World Doubles Champion on two occasions, with two different partners. 

There have been several players who have excelled at both Rackets and Real Tennis, a notable example being Howard Angus, who was world champion at both sports.

Alex Titchener-Barret & Will Hopton

Alex Titchener-Barret & Will Hopton

To find out more about Rackets check out The Tennis & Rackets Association which is the governing body for Rackets in the UK, and also is responsible for the Game of Real Tennis in Britain.

Photo's courtesy of Tim Edwards at Plough Studios

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