Down through the years, women have made their mark on tennis. Arguably the most talked-about player of the fifteenth century was Margot of Hainault: arriving in Paris in 1427, Margot proceeded to defeat some of the best men in the game. Journal d’un bourgeois de Paris a chronicle of Parisian life in which Joan of Arc is dismissed as ‘a nuisance’ offers fulsome praise:
“She played hand-ball better than any man had seen before; playing fore- and back-hand very powerfully, very cunningly, and very cleverly – as well as any man. There were few whom she could not better on court – and they were the very best.”
A traditional gentleman’s club with sports facilities, Leamington remained exclusively male for more than 160 years. As much as anything, the club’s late conversion was born of pragmatism: in the absence of a hundred or so females urgently petitioning for membership, funds which might have paid for a Ladies’ Dressing Room were instead used for essential repairs and maintenance.
It’s fair to say that the Tennis Court Club has moved with the times – and seldom ahead of them.
In the early part of the twentieth century, there would have been scant support for the Suffragettes – particularly when protests disrupted the Derby (“Good God! Pass the port, Gerald!”) In the 1970’s meanwhile, members would have identified more readily with Norman Mailer than Germaine Greer.
Times change, though – and so too, attitudes. In a general ballot – the first of its kind for LTCC – the membership was invited to express opinions on the club and its future. Framed within ballot, this was a simple question: should membership rights be extended to ladies?
The response to that question was ‘yes’.
Today, just a few years on, LTCC plays host to annual LRTA tournaments – and, with the introduction of regular Academy sessions, the Ladies’ section is going from strength to strength.