Sport

Week 81: Henry VIII’s Tennis Court

Our trip to Roubaix concluded on Monday morning, and by mid-morning we were already back in the UK. Jacqueline stayed down in London, while I took both our bikes back in to Cambridge, making it in time for lunch. The week then took on a rather ordinary flavour from there, heading into the Cavendish to do yet more work. I spent the week doing some calculations by hand. The different annihilation channels I was considering were giving orders-of-magnitude differences in their efficiency, so I wanted to probe the reasons for this. I suspected this may become evident through the mathematics, so there was a lot of scribbling equations through the week. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any more illumination by the end of it all. The frustration did lead me to cooking some jam drop biscuits though. Not much of the rest of the week was notable, still stuck in the regular rhythm of working, tennis, dinner and cricket training again on Wednesday evening. Even Saturday was spent as a simple relaxing day.

On Sunday, it was time for yet another Real Tennis trip, though this one was to one of the most famous courts in the world. The Cambridge Women’s Real Tennis varsity team had organised a trip to Hampton Court Palace, the former home of one of the game’s greatest proponent’s: Henry VIII. They had invited a couple of the guys along with them. So Jacqueline and I were headed out to join Kevin and Krittika and a number of the other players in the team against the members from the Royal Tennis Court.

Since it was term break in Cambridge, most of the other players, being undergraduates, were not travelling all the way from Cambridge for the matches. Since several of the players didn’t own their own racquets, the first thing for Jacquline and I to do was to pick up a couple of spare racquets from the club in Cambridge to use. We then headed to the train station and headed in to London. Unfortunately, the train service between central London and Hampton Court was suspended for the day due to engineering works, so we instead needed to take a rather roundabout route to get to the Royal Palace. In the end, we took the Piccadilly line to Hounslow, almost all the way to Heathrow, then caught a local bus through the backstreets to Hampton Court.

We arrived with plenty of time to spare. Instead of heading through the main entrance of the Palace, we instead had directions to go down a back alley and through a security gate, where there was a register with our names on waiting for us. We then found the court and the club rooms behind them, where a number of the other girls on the University team were meeting. I was on court first, for a doubles match with Olivia, the women’s team captain. One of the players we were playing against, I had already played in the national category tournament at the Oratory only a month ago. There was a rather annoying handicap against us, which meant that we went behind relatively quickly. The court was one of the better courts I’ve played on, the bounce was consistent and there was enough spin to be interesting. Olivia and I had very different styles; she would hit hard, low and fast, whereas I would put more spin and angle on the ball. In the end, we lost our timed match.

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We stayed on to watch the rest of the matches for the day. In particular, I enjoyed the view from the top gallery, with a unique view down onto the court, rather than the player-level view through the netting in the side of the court. Most of the matches resulted in losses to Cambridge, the Royal Tennis Court players benefited from either being too good or having helpful handicap differences. In between the matches and the lunch, we each went out to explore the palace and grounds a bit, but several areas were closed. A group of us travelled back to Cambridge, on the bus, tube and train, together, and found some dinner back home.

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