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Oath_Tennis_Court.jpg - "The Oath of the Tennis Court." Pen and ink drawing by Jacques-Louis David, 1791. This monumental work, designed to be a preliminary to a larger painting (never completed), was first displayed to the public in the Salon of 1791, where it met with great enthusiasm. In its meeting of June 17th, the Third Estate had declared itself to be the National Assembly, the representatives of the sovereign nation, and invited the Clergy and the Nobility to join it. Although some lower clergy accepted the invitation and crossed over, the other orders refused at first. On June 20, the king ordered their meeting rooms locked so the Third Estate and their clerical allies met instead in a tennis court in the nearby Jeu de Paume, and their members took a solemn oath refusing to leave until a new constitution for the kingdom was established. On June 27, the king orders the rest of the Clergy and Nobility to join the National Assembly.

The Oath of the Tennis Court, Jacques-Louis David

On June 20, 1789, a group of peasants, serfs and wage-laborers, representatives of France’s lower-class Third Estate, found themselves locked out of a meeting in Versailles which King Louis XVI ostensibly called to formulate strategies which could pull the nation out of a state-induced financial crisis. Outraged, the oft-ignored Third Estate reps decided to call a meeting of their own, which they held on a tennis court, and at which they signed an oath against the heads of state which eventually led to the French Revolution. Historians now cite the Tennis Court Oath, originally an act of desperation from an outraged people, as one of the most important events in European history, and we continue to feel its reverberations today.

On Wednesday, a different revolution from a different outraged person occurred roughly fourteen kilometers from Versailles on another tennis court. Its effects, while far less deleterious to the French government, could have a similarly wide-reaching impact on the status quo, particularly the oft-ignored, #1-ranked player and the reigning king against whom he staged his coup.

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