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Frontenis is one of the many variations of the Basque pelota game, itself a derivation of real tennis. It is played in one of the largest courts on the sport with a tennis racquet that contains an optional custom double string called "doble encordado" and a tiny frontenis ball. It can be played Singles (1 vs 1) or Pairs (2 vs 2) and the players are called pelotaris.

The history

It was created in the year of 1916 in Mexico, when the idea of merging tennis and the traditional Basque pilota emerged. The game and equipment have evolved considerably since their creation to faster, better constructed balls (of which two types exists, an extremely fast, smaller ball and a larger, slower one) and newly improved tennis-style reinforced raquets. It is present in Mexico, France, Peru, Colombia, Cuba, Spain, Argentina, parts of the United States and other countries. The sport has almost completely been dominated by Mexico, but competition with Spain and other nations is constant.

The court-field

It is played on a three-walled court called frontón (frontón + tenis = frontenis). The following are the respective sections of the court:

  • "Frontis" is the front wall, 9.85 meters tall, 9.10 meters wide.
  • "Pared de ayuda". Support wall, 30 meters long, 9.85 tall.
  • "Rebote". The bounce wall. Same size as Frontis.
  • "Cancha". The floor where the ball will need to bounce, it is 9.10 wide and 30 meters long.
  • "Contra cancha". Counter-field, 5 meters wide, parallel to the court with an optional wall made of netting to let the audience see the game without getting hurt and to keep the ball near to the players.
  • "Chapa" is the metal plate located at the bottom of the front wall, 60 cm. from the ground.

The frontenis ball

The ball is hard and slightly smaller than a racquetball with an extremely active bounce.

In the early days, all balls were specially fabricated and imported from England and U.S. Then Lugardo Torres from Mexico city and the Rizo brothers from Guadalajara city started to fabricate frontenis balls but the product was only in the market for a few years. By the days of World War II, the imported balls were difficult to get because of the war and they were too slow or deflated because it cannot be stored for months.

In 1945, Francisco Beltrán started to experiment with the balls using an hypodermic needle to inject gas, covering the hole with a patch and vulcanizing it but he had not much success. Then he researched for a rubber maker and, after setting up a "laboratory" at his kitchen, he started to make frontenis balls by his own and test it. After those fails and successes he associated with Dr. Jesús Ledezma, his capitalist partner and founded the first ball factory called 201. After a few years of business they dissolved the society and Dr. Jesus Ledezma keep working with the 201 factory. Then Francisco Beltran moved to Guadalajara city and there he founded Pelotas Beltrán with a product called Superbote Beltrán.

As the founder ot the only two factories in the world of frontenis balls, Francisco Beltrán can be considered "the father of frontenis balls".

The official specifications of the ball to practice this game are: 47mm diameter, 47~50gr, 57 shore, bounce of 1.58 meters (2 meters fall with an ambient temperature ball). It could be made in white, yellow, orange and in dark colours where walls are painted white. Almost all are made in white colour because dark green painted walls are most common.

The game can also be played with a slower and bigger ball, referred to by the slang name "Bola Gorda". It has similar bounce characteristics, but is about twice the size of frontenis balls -- about the same size as a tennis ball. As a result, the game runs at slower speeds, making it easier for novices to learn the game.

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