Jeu_de_paumeUnder a (probably) cloudy sky the eyes of a silent, expectant crowd – sated with Pimms and strawberries and cream – fixed on the ball as it was gently tossed from the server’s hands and arced in a gentle parabola; the whisper of a collective intake of breath broken by a sharp ‘toc’ as the tennis ball made contact with the onrushing racket and went hurtling towards the opponent. People have been watching a similar sight since real tennis came into being in the Middle Ages, derived from the French racket-less game of jeu de paume (which also gave rise to handball). One such person was Sir Isaac Newton, who in a paper written in 1672, wondered why it was that a tennis ball was able to follow ‘such a curveline’ as it went from its origin to its destination.
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