In Chinon, the tennis game seeks to impress the gallery

Posted today at 01:34

Lea Van Der Zwalmen has as much imagination as talent. When she closes her eyes, the 26-year-old Frenchwoman, world number 2 in tennis, sees herself playing here, in Chinon (Indre-et-Loire), against her British rival Claire Fahey, the final of a major tournament. . She can already hear the applause of connoisseurs of this homegrown racket sport, a claimed precursor of tennis, resound under the vast Renaissance framework of the oldest hall in the country still standing. She is delighted with the idea of ​​impressing the gallery. When she opens her eyes, it’s not the same: the roof is loose, the walls are flapping, the ground is broken, and the heavy wooden door is shaken by the wind which willingly rushes into the alleys of the lower town.

From dream to reality, a few years of work. The place is in ruins. “We spotted him in 2011”, says Thierry Bernard-Tambour, historian of the game commissioned by the French Short Palm Committee (CFCP) and president of the club of Fontainebleau (Seine-et-Marne). A discovery that owes a lot to research carried out by the Friends of Old Chinon, the local learned society. Jean Meunier consulted kilometers of archives to establish that the rue du Jeu-de-Paume had not stolen its name, that the room had been built at the end of the 16the century, that its sponsor, the squire François de Troussard had “bailed it out” to a certain Thomas Biziou and that its exploitation ceased less than a century later. Time has ended up burying its memory in the depths of memories. For years, lifelong Chinese people and summer tourists paraded in front of this huge hangar (29 meters long, 9 meters wide, 8 meters high), without understanding what it could have been used for.

From left to right: Simon Berry, owner of the tennis court in Chinon, Lea Van Der Zwalmen, world number 2 and French number 1 in the discipline, and Thierry Bernard-Tambour, game historian and president of the tennis club. Fontainebleau (Seine-et-Marne).  In Chinon (Indre-et-Loire), May 23, 2022.

We never really knew what to do with it. Once decommissioned, it became a saltpeter’s pit (1680), riding school for “cavalry troops in garrison” (1764), stable (after the French Revolution), all-purpose barrack rented at a low price by the municipality (1897), handed over to horse-drawn carriages (1900), new stable (1935), drugstore warehouse (1940) and Rabelaisian poultry market (1969), a popular address for lovers of géline de Touraine and other tasty black-legged chickens.

All these destinations have disfigured it by multiplying the partitions, by creating levels and openings. We even wanted to demolish it three times: in 1894, to build a kindergarten; in 1968, to build a telephone exchange; in 1970, to modernize the downtown traffic plan. Suffice to say that we didn’t care that much.

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