Which do you think is the fastest racket game in the world?

For many years, I have maintained that the 18th century game, Rackets (aka Racquets in American English), was the fastest racket game in the world. I have generally thrown in Jai Alai or Pelota Basque as equally fast sports. However, having just spent the better part of an 1/2-hour searching the net for substantiation of my claim, I am confounded to say that it may not be so. [I remember losing handsomely a squash match at Queen’s to rackets former world champion and super talented Willie Boone, despite his doubling my age — and he cracked a wicked soft ball. Boone is still evidently ruling the Rackets world (winning the Masters 40s in 2006).]

Here is what I have found out about the speediest racket sports:

Badminton — which claims to be the second most popular participation sport in the world behind soccer/football — is the fastest, with the fastest shuttlecock coming in at 332 kph or 206 mph hit by Fu Haifeng in 2005. Here are some interesting facts on badminton courtesy of the BBC which I found through Chanchow’s Asia-loves-fast-sports post. This 2006 article by the BBC speaks to this conclusion about badminton; however, there is no reference to rackets (in the “fast” department). Some say that Badminton is the fastest growing sport in the world as well. Introduced into the Olympics in 1992, badminton was watched by 1.1 billion spectators at its Olympic debut. For fun, go to YouTube here and check out this 2007 All England semi-final match involving Fu Haifeng. It is riveting stuff.

Pelota Basque or Jai Alai (as it’s called in the US) – the ball, covered in goat skin, has been measured at 302 kph or 188 mph. (see photo right of a pelota basque player).

[updated] Lawn tennis comes in decidedly lower and slower. At time of writing the initial post, the fastest serve registered at a paltry 249 kph or 155 mph, courtesy of Andy Roddick in 2004 (Davis Cup match against Voltchkov of Belarus). Updated June 2021: The tall and well built Sam Groth punched a serve out at 263 kph (164 mph) in a tournament in Korea in 2012. It’s grainy, but there is a recording of it (see below). Of note, it was on match point. TennisPoint has logged the 37 fastest lawn tennis services ever. See here.

Apparently, the golf ball struck off the tee hits 180 mph or 290 kph. You have to experience driving at top speed the best Formula 1 cars (example at the fast Monza race track) to hit 205 mph or 330 kph, which is comparable to the lightening speed of Fu Haifeng’s blast.

So, until I can substantiate my claim about rackets being the fastest game, I am going to have to adjust my pitch and refer to badminton as the fastest racket sport in the world. Anyone beg to differ?


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