Monday, January 4, 2016
Pierre Etchebaster (1893 –1980) was a French real tennis player who is widely considered history's greatest player of the game (in France jeu de paume), the original racquet sport from which the modern game of lawn tennis (which has usurped the name "tennis"), is descended.
Born in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France, a Basque fishing village, he served in the French Army during World War I before returning home to become the French champion in main nués, pala and chistera, all varieties of Basque pelota.
In 1922, Etchebaster was encouraged by tennis player Jacques Worth (a president of a Paris court club) to take up the game of real tennis. His first time on the court was during his audition to be the head professional of the club. After a few minutes of play, he was selected to fill the role.
He was an excellent athlete who would spend hours a day on court practising his many shots, and studying the spin effects the various surfaces of the court had on the ball. In 1955 he was awarded the Légion d'honneur for his achievements, and in 1978 he was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.