The First Beautiful Game

Buy on Amazon or at your local independent bookseller. As the book is currently out of print, secondhand paper copies can be quite expensive, so you may prefer to get the Kindle version.

About The First Beautiful Game

A quirky journey into the curious world of real tennis

Bent rackets, painted crowns, penthouses and giraffes. Hand-stitched balls that ricochet around a court shaped like a medieval cloister. Fanatical players dedicated to a sport that has hardly changed in four centuries. Welcome to real tennis.

In The First Beautiful Game, top amateur player and bestselling philosopher Roman Krznaric tells the personal stories behind real tennis, the ancient forerunner of lawn tennis. Its obsessives and eccentrics reveal why they play this extraordinary sport, what it means to them, and the unexpected lessons they have learned about ambition, passion, respect and love.

Two hundred years before football became known as ‘the beautiful game’, an eighteenth century real tennis professional used the phrase to describe his own sport. In this book you will discover why.

Read an extract from The First Beautiful Game (Preface and Chapter 1)

Selected reviews

‘This is much more than an enchanting guide to the game of kings. Whatever your favourite sports may be, Roman Krznaric shows you how to expand the enjoyment you derive from them. A warm and imaginative book, full of surprises.’ Theodore Zeldin, author of An Intimate History of Humanity

‘This book is the first to capture the real spirit of the game and its players. It’s unique.’ Rob Fahey, Real Tennis World Champion

Selected media

BBC/PBS: A 2-minute video clip from a TV documentary on Hampton Court Palace. I discuss Henry VIII’s addiction to real tennis while playing on the palace’s ancient tennis court.

New York Times: An article on the history of real tennis.