How do you drive John McEnroe mad? Challenge him to a game of Ricochet, a new racket-and-wall game loosely based on squash, featuring an electronic eye and an automatic scoreboard.

Using light, stubby rackets and a soft rubber ball, Ricochet is played in a foreshortened squash court with a low ceiling which is also a playing surface. You can hit the ball against the ceiling en route to the end wall, giving the game an extra dimension to squash - hence its name.

Gone is the slightly musty atmosphere of the traditional squash court: the new game is played within hi-tech, wipe-clean, heat-laminated Fiberesin walls, with audio-visual bleeps and a scoreboard for those who tend to lose track when hyper-ventilating.

Ricochet was launched in Holland and Germany 18 months ago, and arrived in Britain last month in the shape of a show court with see-through walls at Spitalfields Market. Ian Mitchell-Innes, an importer of sports equipment who has the licence to distribute the game in Britain, expects a proliferation of courts across the country by the end of the year.

The main advantages of the new sport are its cheapness and size - new courts cost about pounds 20,000 each, half the cost of a squash court, and can be stacked on top of each other, six fitting into the space of a badminton court. It requires far less strength and technique to hit the ball than squash or tennis, so Ricochet is particularly accessible to beginners.

It is squash players who pick up the new sport most quickly, but Mr Mitchell-Innes says that children as young as seven years old can enjoy rallies of 20 or 30 strokes almost immediately.

He adds that Ricochet was not targeting at current squash players so much as at older players for whom competitive squash has become too strenuous, and members of gyms and fitness clubs who are looking for a new, more sociable source of aerobic fitness.

Adam Bloch, the coach at Spitalfields, pointed out that Ricochet was ideal for inner-city children who may be naturally good at sport but have little opportunity to sample racket sports, which tend to be the province of private schools and clubs.

All very well: but why would John McEnroe have so much trouble with Ricochet? Well, when I played a three-game introductory match, the touch-sensitive 'net failed to bleep for below the line, or bleeped when the ball was clearly above the line, at least six times.

So, go along to Spitalfields for a tryout, free until the end of May (tel 071 377 1300). And remember, when the automatic net lets you down, fix it with a beady stare and bellow: 'You can NOT be serious.

(Photograph omitted)

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