“His present, and your pains, we thank you for:
When we have match’d our rackets to these balls,
We will, in France, by God’s grace play a set,
Shall strike his father’s crown into the Hazard:
Tell him, he made a match with such a wrangler, That all the Courts of France will be disturb’d with chases.”
King Henry V by Shakespeare
The game is begun by a service which is always from the same end of the court (the service side). The opposite end of the court where the receiver stands is called the hazard side. The service does not alternate with each game as in lawn tennis. The server changes ends and ceases to serve only when a chase has been laid. The meaning of a chase will be explained below. To be a valid service the ball has to touch the penthouse roof at least once on the hazard side of the net and drop in the service court. If it does not touch the penthouse roof or if it hits a window or the roof it will be a fault. A second serve is available, as in lawn tennis.
A chase is laid on the floor where the ball bounces for the second time, other than in the winning area on the hazard size, without being hit by the player. On the service side a chase is laid wherever the ball bounces for a second time. On the hazard side a hazard chase is laid if the ball bounces the second time between the net and the line parallel to it furthest from the net. If it lands a second time between that line and the back wall, it is a point for the server.
The galleries on either side of the net also count as chases with the exception on the hazard side of the winning gallery. If the ball enters the winning gallery after crossing the net, either without touching the floor or after one bounce, it is a point for the server. Other winning openings which provide outright winners are the dedans on the service side and the grille on the hazard side.
If a chase is laid, the point is not won by that shot, and instead the point is kept in abeyance until the player changes ends. When the players change end, the receiver (who was previously the server) has to beat the chase. The players change ends if two chases have been laid or if one player reaches game point and there is one chase. If it is a hazard chase, the receiver will beat the chase by playing any shot which the server cannot return, either on the floor or by hitting one of the galleries on the service side. If it is a service chase, the receiver will beat the chase by the second bounce landing nearer the back wall than where the chase was laid. To assist in determining where precisely a ball bounces the second time, lines are marked on the floor at intervals of one yard. The figures above the lines on the opposite wall show the number of yards measured, on the service side, from the back wall and, on the hazard side, from the service line. The nearer a chase on the service side is to the back wall, the more difficult it is to beat.
When the players change ends, the first point to be played is the chase. The marker will call out the chase which the receiver hopes to beat. If the chase is exactly on a yard line, the marker will call out the number of yards, eg “chase 2 and 3” means two and a half yards from the back wall. If the chase falls between a yard and a half-yard line, the marker will call out “better than” or “worse than” the yard line, depending on whether the ball fell nearer the back wall, or further from the back wall, than the yard line. If the ball went into a gallery, the marker calls out the name of that gallery, eg the Last Gallery. Each gallery has a line on the floor opposite to the centre of the gallery. If the chase is laid on the floor between galleries, the marker calls out “better / worse than” say, the Second Gallery.