Practical Lawn Tennis, 1893

June 16, 2016, 8:23 am

In honor of the recent opening of our newest exhibit in the Peirce-Prince Gallery, Tennis in Newport: The Casino and Jimmy Van Alen, we thought it would be appropriate to feature a tennis book this week. Practical Lawn Tennis, published originally in 1893, provides a guide on the basics of the sport for any skill level; with helpful time-lapse photographs, diagrams and tips from the author, a registered doctor. While some of this advice may seem odd to the modern player, this book is a valuable resource in tennis history and game play.

“Have nothing to do with rackets with knobs on the handles or with double stringing or any peculiarity whatever. The best racket is a plain one with a moderate-sized head and an octagonal handle. An octagonal handle gives a better hold than a round one and is more comfortable to the hand than a square one. ..A very large head seems to me a mistake. If you look at any old racket, you will see that the strings are worn in a little circle in the centre of the racket, showing that all the balls have struck there. Therefore, as far as hitting the ball goes, there is no need of a racket more than four inches across.”

“Do not stand about all day watching the matches; leave the ground when you finish playing and do something else – anything you like that will not tire you. When you are going to play do not watch a match and certainly do not umpire. If you must watch a match, do it from one end of the court and not from the side. It tires the eyes much less. If you need a stimulant while playing, brandy with as little water as possible is the best thing. A lemon is refreshing, and the juice rubbed on the hand of your racket will prevent it from slipping.”

“All short lobs should go to the partner who can play them forehanded. A cross-stroke should be taken by the partner farthest from the play who hit it. A moment’s thought will show that the ball is travelling more directly towards the farther player, and that he can meet it more fairly than his partner.”


In addition to helpful tips, this lovely volume goes in depth to explain best practices for playing, and how to make the most of your time on the court. Be sure to stop in and see our newest exhibit, in collaboration with the Tennis Hall of Fame.

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