Henry Vlll would have loved it!

02 Oct 2009

Fast tennis, lively crowds, a gentle wager, wine, women and song at MURTC

At a guess, maybe 140 people came to Middlesex University on the evening of October 1st to watch Real Ten, a real tennis tournament the like of which we haven�t seen before. The brainchild of Rod McNaughtan, who played,�but�master-minded on the night by Rob Fahey, who didn�t play, it pitted 5 Pros against each other in a Round Robin format lasting several hours. So far, not so unusual.

However...each Pro had �backers�, all 140 or so�attendees having paid £20 for a ticket which included a small flutter�on�your chosen�Pro, who then fought it out on handicap�for�a�significant prize pot. For those of us lucky enough to have backed the Home Pro, Ged Eden, it also meant a small share of�his winnings, which certainly added to the sense and noise of the occasion! Never has one Pro had so many vociferous coaches. To add to the cacophony, there was loud pop music and cheerleaders, the former every time the players changed ends, and the latter� between games, provided by a troupe of lissom young things from the Middlesex University dance troupe. That MUST be a first�in real tennis. For the record, Ged won all of his sets despite the obvious distractions...

It all added up to a raucous, exuberant and successful evening of �tennis with a difference�, with 40 people still there at the prizegiving long after 11 pm. Although there were many stalwart tennis supporters watching, the audience contained dozens of young people who may or may not have ever seen the game before. Half way through the evening Rob pulled 20 of them on court to compete at hitting the ball into the dedans from the hazard end. This proved very popular and competitive, an obvious and quick way to get possible new players hooked. Apologies for the poor quality iPhoto.

MURTC has been through a summer of reorganisation on a mission to prove to its landlord that the court so generously built and supported by Peter Luck-Hille � who was one of the last to leave last night � could survive and thrive. Now, with a� Members Committee heavily involved in running the place, and a National League team led by Rob Fahey, and a busy booking sheet, it�s beginning to look as if�MURTC has turned the corner. Not all of their fixtures will have so much razzamatazz, but they certainly put on a good show last night, and it�s nice to�entertain the hope that the court might be fulfilling Peter�s dream at last. Earlier in the week, MURTC had signed 150 Freshers to �come and have a go� � that�s almost certainly more than all the other University clubs added together. It might take dancing girls to get them in, but thank goodness for a new generation of tennis enthusiasts.

I believe that Rackets is also trying something new at Queen's on 29 October, watch this space.

James Walton

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