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Elvis’s Graceland Racquetball Court & Why He Loved The Sport

Elvis's love for racquetball & the history behind Graceland's racquetball court.

Photo courtesy of Graceland

Besides rock n’ roll, platforms, and everyone walking around with a shag, the 1970s saw a huge racquetball boom, especially at (then) Memphis State University and local clubs like Don Kessinger’s and the Supreme Court. 

Elvis wasn’t much of a racquetball fan until he was introduced to the sport in 1968 by his physician, Dr. Frederick Nichpolos, who started playing it in 1955 at the Nashville JCC by sawing off a tennis racquet’s handle. 

Joe Sobek invented the sport in Connecticut in 1950, and the demand for racquets was so high that it left many athletes using Dr. Nichpolos’ DIY method. Dr. Nichpolos allegedly showed his “paddle rackets,” as he called them, to younger players with ambition and talent, and in the mid-60s, he moved the game along with his medical practice to Memphis while looking for young talent to coach. 

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Photo courtesy of Graceland

In 1967, Dr. Nichpolos treated Elvis for “saddle pain,” and a year later, he prescribed racquetball. Ever since Elvis discovered his newfound passion, he played thousands of games for years to come. The King played his first official game in 1973; he would often stay up late watching movies or playing the sport until the wee hours of the morning.

In 1975, Elvis wanted to bring his love for racquetball back home and build a court at Graceland. According to Elvis Daily, “Elvis walloped the ball around the court like he was strumming a guitar for the fun of it.” He wore white tennis shoes, shorts, and safety goggles that were huge back in the day.

The King would play day and night before heading out to the dark Memphis streets on motorcycles with bodyguards and the “racquetball mafia” in sidecars, going to movies and nightclubs. Yes, he did pack on the pounds later in his career. The ESPN “30 for 30” short says that Elvis’s doctor suggested he begins playing the sport to get in shape.

Photo by Susannah Breslin / Forbes

Once Elvis passed, Graceland closed in memory of the legendary recording artist, and the court was never used again. Graceland did reopen to the public about ten years later, and the team that reopened it commemorated Elvis with gold and platinum records, a sole racquet under glass with an old, blue ball that was allegedly the last ball Elvis played with.

There are also some rumors that Elvis passed on the Graceland court, not in the bathroom upstairs.

January 13, 2022
Written by BuzzMusic
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January 13, 2022
Written by BuzzMusic
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