Racket Sports

Racket sports are what we do, our raison d’etre. We currently offer five key varieties, with a couple of others available – Badminton and Pickleball being examples. One suspects that our founding fathers would be appalled: indeed great resistance has been shown over the years to any intrusion to the ordered squash life of the club. Tennis took over twenty years before the first court was built (and a further forty before we participated in leagues), and Real Tennis was turfed out before it got a chance. Racketball was seen by many as a ‘cissy’ sport, with some giving it a very rude alternate name. Table Tennis only prospered when it was realised that court 7 was not only a bad product (damp and bumpy), but was surplus to requirements as squash popularity diminished in the early 2000’s, and Padel probably wouldn’t have happened if the members had been asked to vote


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Squash was the primary reason for the development of the Club in 1936, and competition is apparent almost immediately, with Men’s and Ladies closed tournaments being contested from 1937. The Club opened for business on 3rd October 1936, so its not surprising that 1937 is the earliest year. It is also thought that a Ladies Open competition commenced that year. Competitive squash has been available at the Club for club members to participate in (or view) in the following bewildering array of forms, with commencement years where known; Click any of the entries highlighted in RED for more information.

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Men’s and Ladies closed competitions

The Honours Boards and Trophies show these two competitions as starting in 1937. This page shows photographs where available of all Men’s and ladies winners. We apologise on behalf of the club for our failure to secure images of some our most treasured winners. Any viewer who thinks they have any ‘snaps to fill the gaps’ will receive a small reward – contact us and we may well be eternally grateful.

The Ladies Winners… if the in-line image isn’t clear enough, click it for a larger version, or click here for the PDF

The Men’s winners… If the image isn’t clear enough, click it for a larger version, or click here for the PDF

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International Squash Matches

The Club’s players and the Club itself as a venue has been involved in International matches since at least 1947, the earliest photograph shown in the slideshow following. Home internationals at a variety of levels, including Ladies, Men’s Juniors and Age Groups have been a feature of our calendar.

More galleries of squash players are available on the Photo Albums page. These include teams (Ladies, Men’s and Mixed), individuals and a miscellany or two

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Tennis didn’t feature as a sport at the Club until as late as 1957, and didn’t merit floodlighting for another 27 years (and then just one court) and a further 6 years in 1990 before all were floodlit. In 1971, a major project created courts 2 and 3, but the courts were still seen purely as a distraction for weary squash players; there was no local league participation or separate membership category for these facilities. Indeed aside the Club closed championships, the closest the club got to serious competition on the courts were for ten years or so in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s when the three courts were converted into two five-a-side football pitches for exclusive use one day a week (as shown in one of the photos in the slideshow). Curious that football took precedence over tennis.

In 1990, and again in 1999, major upgrades were made to the surfaces, although as was discovered on the latter occasion, a carpet had been simply laid on top of the existing one, causing poor court conditions throughout the 1990’s. It was decided in the early 2000’s that tennis should become a proper team sport, and the club started to participate in local leagues. Colin Robertson, a member at Murrayfield tennis club, has provided an excellent account of the occasions when that Club sought to merge with ours, with failure resulting on both occasions.

Colin’s account begins thus: “Merger proposal discussions between Edinburgh sports club (ESC) and Murrayfield Lawn Tennis Club (Murrayfield) have taken place twice, firstly in 1955-56, and secondly in 2001-2003.    This document seeks to describe the processes involved and the decisions taken.   In both cases the proposals were rejected” A single draft plan exists for the 2003 proposal and can be seen here. Had the proposal been successful, the club would have emerged with 2 indoor and 5 outdoor tennis courts. While two squash courts would have been repositioned, the doubles and show court would have been casualties, meaning that the balance of power would have shifted to tennis.

A full scale renewal of the substrate, carpet and court accessories took place in 2016 at a cost of around £50,000, half of which was provided by an unsecured 10 year interest free loan from the LTA. A photo of the W.I.P. is shown in the slideshow.

A separate account of the Tennis playing records will be available in due course. A draft record of Singles, Doubles and mixed competitions can be seen here.

In the meantime, a slideshow of tennis activity over the years is shown below.

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This sport was only brought to the Club in 1979 (according to the 50th Anniversary brochure), and while not in any way threatening squash, nevertheless offered a leisurely option to it’s frenetic relation. It also transferred easily to the Club’s doubles court, and until the Padel revolution of 2014 was the game of choice for many retired squash players. Interesting that the squash authorities thought to rebadge it a few years ago – It’s now known by them (and apparently only them) as Squash57. That seems to refer to the millimetric size of the sphere, as opposed to 40mm for a squash ball (why didn’t they rename that to Squash40?) Perhaps they were hoping for sponsorship from Heinz.

The game was invented by Joe Sobek, a former professional tennis player who wanted to play a tennis-like sport on a squash court. His game is known as ‘Racquetball’, and although similar to the game we know at the Club, the court is the USA standard squash court where there is no tin, and the roof is in play. This level of confusion is probably unnecessary, and if you choose to explore the topic, you’ll find other games in the mix, e.g. Paddleball.

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Table Tennis has been available as a casual sport for many years, the doubles court in particular being the favoured location for the folding table, which was always to be seen outside the court (along with Badminton stands and net). Around 2010, a decision was made to convert courts 6 and 7 into a table tennis facility, with court 7 being permanently assigned to the sport. This facility rapidly became a centre for coaching and practice, was renamed the ‘Eddie Still Arena’, and ESC also started to participate in the local leagues. Six tables were acquired, apparently donated by members, whose names appear to be shrouded in mystery. Your editor is awaiting articles from members past and present, and thus far has obtained just the one, from former Scottish Internationalist David Hollingdale, which is reproduced below.

If you are doing a piece on table tennis at ESC, I would like Eddie Still to be given centre stage. 

1955 World Table Tennis Championships – Eddie Still

He was more highly ranked than I, and continued to put a lot back into the game for his entire life as a coach, particularly encouraging youngsters, and establishing table tennis at ESC, getting teams into the league, and continues to support it.  I abandoned table tennis in about 1962 having decided to become an international squash player instead, my self-confidence failed to achieve that outcome.   At the time of Utrecht, Scottish men were not world class, but the legendary Helen Elliott was a world class woman.  An amusing illustration occurred in about 1958 when Helen raised eyebrows by entering the Highland Open at Elgin in both the ladies’ singles, but also the open draw, which was not actually called the “Mens’ Singles”.   She walked the ladies’ as usual.  She also got to the final of the open singles, thrashing the then Scottish male No. 1, Victor Garland, to take the title. Garland was not amused, but the rest of us were.     She was at Utrecht as well.  She already held two world titles, got to the semi finals of the mixed doubles with Aubrey Simons of England, when, leading 19-12 in the third set, Simons froze, and they lost to Kalman Szepesi and Eva Koczian (both Hungarian).    She got to the quarter finals of the ladies singles, losing to the multi titled Angelica Rozeanu. Helen got me into her famous Gambit Club aged 15, and coached me into a reasonable player.     I kept in touch with her until her death about five years ago.

The Scottish Table Tennis Archives document, compiled by Stewart McGowan, is a good read for anyone wanting to know the background to Scottish ‘TT’ from 1926 to 2020.

Click on any of the images below to enable a full sized screen show.

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The Chairman’s remarks in the 2014 Annual Report included the following:

“The biggest change we have introduced in recent history is installing a Padel Tennis Court. This has expanded our Rackets offering for no additional cost to members. I would like to thank our Manager, Jonathan Tait who has been the driving force behind this new venture. He saw the rapid development in Spain and the opportunity to be the first Club in Scotland to install a court. Already other Edinburgh and Scottish clubs are investigating Padel”.

Some years later, and many members have been very grateful for the extra facilities, and 2021 is planned see the completion of the scheme with three covered courts: quite a change from the initial single uncovered court. In the meantime, there are a couple of short slideshows, firstly one with some images from the development and opening of the courts. The second slideshow is a compendium of Padel origins, players, tournaments, matches, socialising and posing.

Click on any of the images below to enable a full screen slideshow…

We also managed to obtain a short video showing some of the construction of the roof of courts 1 and 2 – a somewhat hair-raising experience – watch it at https://youtu.be/EQ4 rza c3m4

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As an aside, your editor started to check the Padel-like options, thinking that Pickleball was the only one, then found ‘POP Tennis’ (what?) – The official POP (an abbreviation of Popular) Tennis court sizes are 60′ x 21′ for singles and 60′ x 27′ for doubles. POP Classic (original Paddle Tennis) is played on a 50′ x 20′ court. POP Tennis can be played anywhere, and is played all around the world. In fact, there are over 30,000 current POP Tennis courts in the United States alone.    It’s origins?   Murray Geller is credited with starting POP in 1961, while Reverend Frank Peter Beal created the sport of Paddle Tennis in 1898.   ‘Paddle’ became ‘Padel’ when Spanish speaking individuals resurrected the sport in the 1960’s)  There is a comprehensive (USA based) history available here.     And just in case you are thinking that we could play POP on our Padel courts, that isn’t possible.     POP isn’t played within a solid enclosure marking the extremities of the court, as is the case with Padel: it has areas in play to both the side and rear of the court markings, like a tennis court.

This slideshow contains some images from the beginnings of the sport, along with some tournament and recent images from the club

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Doubles (hardball) Squash

The doubles court, constructed in 1937, was originally intended solely for the purpose of playing Doubles Squash. This game is almost certainly the least understood of our racket disciplines. The court, measuring 45 feet by 25 feet (as opposed to a squash court which is 32 feet by 21 feet) appears colossal to casual observers. Many of our members think of of it only as a Badminton court (which it isn’t big enough to be – a badminton court is 44 feet by 20 feet), the doubles racketball venue, circuits studio, Pilates studio, or even a creche. In 2019, it was repurposed as the hub for the European Club Championships, and was so successful that the format was repeated for 2020 ESCO. The World Squash site reported recently on the worldwide status of doubles courts – thus:

The game is growing. Today there are a hundred and fifty active hardball doubles courts in North America, a sixth of those having been built in the past decade. In addition, there are courts in Tijuana, Mexico, at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club in Thailand, at the Tanglin Club in Singapore and at the Raintree Club in Kuala Lumpur. There is just one left in Great Britain. In 1935 four hardball doubles courts were built there: at St. John’s Wood Squash Club, Prince’s Club and Ladies’ Carlton Club in London and at the Edinburgh Sports Club in Scotland. Starting in 1937 the Squash Rackets Association held national doubles tournaments for both amateurs and professionals and England played Scotland in an annual Test match in doubles. The Second World War led to the destruction of the St. John’s Wood and Ladies Carlton courts and Prince’s closed, but Edinburgh still maintains its court“.

2010 Doubles squash, Bertram, Preston, Philp and Jessop (lagging)

Our Geriatrics still ply their trade on the court occasionally, as do one other group, but its a fading habit. If you would like to see the Geriatrics play, click here to see the STV News report. We’ve provided a short slideshow which shows the court in use over the past 85 years. Interesting to note there is now a plexiglass doubles court for tournaments in the USA – we’ve also added that in. Click here for a PDF of the 2010 brochure of the ISDA (International Squash Double Federation) – ESC gets name-checked on page 1.

Despite our court now being the only one in Europe (London used to have a couple), and outside of the Americas, there being only a further three, the sport nevertheless flourishes in USA Canada and Mexico where it is reported that there are no fewer than 165 courts in action.

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