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2014 World Championship Day 1
R Fahey is level with C Riviere 0/6 5/6 6/4 6/3
Hyperbole is a device vastly over employed by sports commentators, but day 1 of the 2014 world championship was the greatest day of tennis ever. The four sets played by Robert Fahey and Camden Riviere over more than two-and-a-half hours brought out the best in the players. The two hundred and thirty odd people watching court side as well as the five hundred and fifty watching online were privy to the beginning of a match that already has provided us with drama in the form of injuries, extreme competition, a little gamesmanship and wonderful sportsmanship as well.
At a little after 6.30, having already devoured our Pol Champagne and oysters, we settled into our seats to first listen to Cynthia Sear sing the Star Spangled Banner and Advance Australia Fair, which was followed immediately by the only slightly less melodious notes of Jonathan Howell introducing the players and the match, and then it was time to begin. As the crowd began to hush, it was revealed that just as in 2012, Rob had won the toss and elected to serve. Rob started the match with his trademark railroad serve but lost the opening point and game following some seemingly tentative rallies. Camden won the serve during the second game and showed us that his serving plan would largely be a mix of slow heavily spun left-handed railroads. If there was a pattern to the first set it was that Rob was fading a lot of balls to Camden’s forehand from the receiving end and that Camden was capable of running almost any shot down. There were few obvious attempts at aggressive
shot play by either player and the tempo clearly favoured Camden as after 18 minutes the score was …
First Set 6/0 to Camden Riviere
With such an inauspicious start to the match from Rob some form of attempt to kick-start his defence was expected. Although his struggles continued he was clearly trying to get a few more revs on his railroad and more penetration on his ground strokes – in particular he started picking on Camden’s backhand from the service end. In the eighth game of the match Rob hit a flat hard forehand into the grille which, looking back on it, could be described as the moment when the contest evened up. Rob won his first game and with increasingly solid play took a 4 – 2 lead. Camden in the meantime continued to frustrate, frustrate Rob that is, as for us he was a joy to watch. His railroad was extremely effective, to this point in the match Rob had not managed one main wall dedan force off the serve (his signature shot for 20 years) and there were few balls he could not retrieve whether forced or on the floor. And before we knew it the score was 4 – 4. Rob won the 9^th game of the
set but then an unforced error, a lucky net break to Camden followed by an exquisite forehand drive into the dedan made the score 5 – 5. In the final game of the set, Camden’s racquet work under pressure and Rob’s wild return of serve onto the penthouse was enough to give Camden the second set.
Second Set 6/5 to Camden Riviere
It would be fair to say that at this stage of the match the crowd was a little stunned. Camden seemed incapable of making an error. In a game of small margins Rob’s serve seemed to lack a little fizz, his return of serve was without its customary venom and winning openings were few and far between. Once again Camden won the first game of the set. Still, as we all know, on court Rob likes a scrap (judging from the glare Cam gave Rob during a change of ends I suspect he likes one too). Just as it did at Queens in 2012, Rob’s railroad improved as the match progressed and with it came the rest of his game. His punches to Camden’s backhand were firmer and the grille seemed to grow wider. At 3 – 2 to Rob, Camden required a break for injury having cut his head by running into the wall. In total 7 to 8 minutes were lost halting the momentum of both players. On the return of play it was as though Rob had his old strut back. Many of the rallies were long and the skill of both
players supreme but it was Rob who took his lead out to 5 – 2. Still nothing was given easily by either player, 5 – 2 became 5 – 4 before Rob had a set point. Rob served a bobble before making an unforced volleying error into the net. He then lost the serve and then the point for the score to become deuce. Another point followed by a change of ends had Rob serving for the set again (protecting chase the 2^nd gallery). A railroad, an uppish volley return from Camden, followed by a forehand drive to hazard the 1^st gallery by Rob, was perfectly read by Camden as he ran forward only to mishit the volley into the net.
Third Set 6/4 to Rob Fahey
For Rob the fourth set was a matter of getting the match back on a level pegging and for Camden it was about taking a lead on a day where he had dominated the majority of play. As it turned out, the fourth set was the one when Rob became the dominant player. Perhaps it was Camden’s disappointment of not having a solid first day lead over Rob, or just the general tension of the situation that led to a little on court friction between the pair – either way it added to the drama for the crowd.
At the end of play both players met at the net and clasped hands in a display that showed their mutual appreciation for each other and the occasion.
Fourth Set 6/3 to Rob Fahey
What a contrary game. With the champ having very recently celebrated his 46^th birthday and constantly giving his opponent 19 years one might suggest that it is Rob who needs to get off to a flying start each day and that lengthy rearguard actions would be the domain of the younger man. Apparently not. Is the old champ playing the long game and yet to reveal his full repertoire? Was Camden’s momentum temporarily stopped by his injury? All we know is that as things stand in this World Challenge everything is pointing towards an epic battle.
If you are in Melbourne tomorrow night you are mad if you are not here, and if you are not, get onto YouTube and search for “Real Tennis 2014” and watch it live from 6.30pm.
Chairman – World Championship Committee
If you would like to attend the match it is not too late. There is space available for General Admission on day 2 (Thursday 6.30pm) and seats (but only a few) on day 3 (Saturday 2pm). At this late stage it is easiest if you contact me directly by email using firstname.lastname@example.org