This story was originally published on February 15, 2016 {Photo by Michael Do of the USCTA}

The Newport-based National Tennis Club will host the Court Tennis World Championship May 17-21 with head pro and world No. 1 Camden Riviere hoping for a chance to upend the reigning champion, Rob Fahey.

The 45-year-old Fahey, an Australian who lives in London, has reigned over the game for 20 years since first winning the championship in 1994. The world championship is held every other year and Fahey will be attempting an unprecedented 12th defense of the title.

“Rob is immensely powerful. He hits the ball hard and puts a lot of spin on it,” said the 28-year-old Riviere, who became the head pro last July. “He’s revolutionized the game in the past 20 years. His return of serve is so powerful that no one can keep up with it. He’s regarded as the greatest real tennis player of all time.”

Court tennis is also known as real tennis because it predates the current version of lawn tennis that features stars such as Roger Federer and Serena Williams. The court tennis worlds are structured in a defender versus challenger format to give the reigning champion every opportunity to defend his title.

[contextly_auto_sidebar] Fahey, the defender, is guaranteed a spot in the final and will face off against one of three challengers: Tim Chisholm (the head pro at The Tuxedo Club in New York), Steve Virgona (head pro at the Racquet Club of Chicago) or Riviere.

Chisholm and Virgona are scheduled to play next month with the winner advancing to play Riviere in a best-of-13 set in Philadelphia, scheduled April 6-10. (Riviere earned a bye into the final when the No. 4 seed opted not to play the challengers’ round.) The winner of that match advances to meet Fahey for the World Championship. If Riviere meets Fahey in the final it would be a rematch of the 2014 World Championship, which Fahey won 7-3.

“That was a tough loss,” said Riviere. “Many people thought I was the favorite in that match, but I didn’t because the guy (Fahey) has never been beaten. Until he loses, he’s the favorite. I went in thinking I could win and had a solid game plan, but he executed well and just beat me.”

Riviere says that winning the world championship would be a dream come true for the lifelong player who was introduced to the game growing up in Aiken, S.C. He turned professional as a teenager in 2005 and ascended to the No. 1 ranking by going undefeated in the past year and a half. In that time frame he has won 10 to 12 titles including the grand slam of court tennis: the Australian, British, French and U.S. opens.

“I fell in love with the game when my father and grandfather taught it to me,” said Riviere. “I started playing it four times a week from 7 years old. I played other sports as well, but never cared about them as much as real tennis. I just continued to progress to the point where I’ve never had to stop and think about it.”
Court tennis reportedly was founded in 11th century France. It has been called “The Game of Kings” because it was played by royalty in castles during the Renaissance Age. The world championship has been contested since 1750 and could be the oldest world championship in sports. The court tennis worlds predate by 101 years the America’s Cup, which bills itself as the oldest continuously contested trophy in sports.

For more information visit the National Tennis Club website.

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Sean McNeill

Sean McNeill is a contributor to What'sUpNewp and a professional PR Consultant. Among those clients that he works with are Volvo Ocean Race, America's Cup and Rolex Yachting.