World number one Robert Fahey has stressed that clubs like Newmarket Real Tennis Club are imperative for the future of the historical sport.
Fahey, who has been top of the rankings in the sport–known as the original racquet sport, played with a solid ball on an enclosed court divided into equal but dissimilar halves– for the past 20 years, was in town to take part in a special exhibition match with world number seven Chris Chapman as well as two of the club’s own players.
And having enjoyed the facilities and hospitality of the club, which has been in existence since 1900, Fahey spoke of the importance of such an establishment as imperative to safeguarding the continued future of the game.
“It was great to be here and put on the show for the club and it’s members, it was really good fun,” said Australian Fahey on his appearance.
“I got into the sport back home in Australia and just fell in love with it.
“We are obviously limited by the number of courts we have around the world and that is the major difficulty with how far we can grow as a sport.
“Survival is the key and beautiful facilities like this are amazing, the people of Newmarket are so lucky to have this here.
“More people should be taking advantage of it and I would encourage everybody to give the sport a go.
“I can be a difficult game in some respects but it should appeal to people because it so bizarre and so you find people get hooked really quickly, particularly kids.
“It is a beautiful building here and it would be a massive shame to see it disappear, the town is so fortunate to have it.
“I treat it as a professional sport but I think most players in the back of their mind know they are keeping an important part of sporting history alive and well and so we have to keep that going.
“Leaving a legacy is hugely important and there is no reason why we shouldn’t still be playing this sport in another 500 years.”
Guaranteeing the future of the sport and attracting new members is also at the forefront of the club’s efforts with a new junior programme being introduced in January.
“Although Real Tennis has been around for 600-odd years it is a sport that we need to introduce new players into,” explained Membership Secretary Savannah Poolman.
“We are hopeful of spreading this game in Newmarket and surrounding area and particularly the junior members.
“I was pleasantly surprised to see how many young people turned up to the event and getting those juniors back is the key.
“We are more than happy to have anyone come down to the club, have a go and a free lesson, all they need to do is contact the club.”
n Visit www.newmarketrealtennis.club for details.