This was the first time I qualified for a world championship eliminator. it's a 2 year process to try qualify for the World Eliminators and only the top 4 players who have picked up the most world race points in those 2 years have a shot at competing in the World Championship against the World Champion.
I qualified in 4th spot so that meant I took the no 1 qualifier, Camden Riviere. We both have the chance to place a bid to have the match played at the court of your choice. I was very luck that the Oratory School and the real tennis chairmen were keen to have an old Oratorian back and put in a bid that fortunately was successful.
Oratory school and the real tennis club put out all the stops to make this as big event as possible. A lot of work went in to make sure Camden and I were well looked after. All though i lost, I was very efforts and it was incredibly special to play in front of packed crowed at my old school. Not only that, I had Rob Fahey (the greatest player of all time) as my coach helping me prepare which was a surreal experience. To top it off my family came, including my dad who flew in from Australia for 3 days just to watch my match. Sadly I was not able to force the match in to a second day but I got to spend an extra couple of days with Dad. Dad also caught with his friend HRH Prince Edward for a hit of tennis and then the prince took dad and I out for a pub lunch which is quite an experience to dine with royalty.
Below is the match report from former World Champion Chris Ronaldson
‘On 27 January, a near-capacity crowd of 140 eager spectators gathered at the magnificent three-tiered Oratory court to see the first bout of the 2020 Men’s World Championship Elimination process.
The match pitted the highest ranked player in the world, Camden Riviere, attempting regain the title that he won so convincingly in 2016, against Nick Howell, ranked at number five, who spent his
formative years at this venue. The format was the best of nine sets, with four sets to be played on the first day.
On paper the match appeared to be one-sided, as there was a gulf between their respective handicaps but Nick, making his first challenge for the title, was determined to put in a valiant effort in front of his voluble supporters.
Nick’s plan was simple: to serve railroads and pummel the grille from the service end; and to play aggressive forces and cut volleys when receiving serve. If Camden returned that first ball, Nick was content to play the galleries to gain the service end. The American’s plan was to employ a variety of his left-handed services to probe for a relative weakness and to use his legendary powers of retrieval to frustrate his opponent.
The opening exchanges were most entertaining, as each man sought to impose his style of play on the other and, after half an hour of play, the score stood at 4/3 in Camden’s favour. Nick was having considerable success with his attacks on the openings, although his opponent’s defence was remarkable.
Then there was a burst of three games in which Nick won hardly a point and, suddenly, the contest swung away from him.
A pattern emerged of some long, keenly contested games, followed by a period of dominance by the World Number One.
After three sets the match score was 6/3, 6/1, 6/1 in favour of Camden and in most competitions that would be that. In the World Championship, however, a minimum of four sets are required to complete
he day’s play, and so the match continued. At 2/5 down in the fourth set, Nicky produced one last show of defiance and rallied to 4/5 before conceding the set.
A relatively new rule allows the winner of the first four sets to insist on a fifth on the first day and Camden exercised that privilege to finish off his doughty opponent 6/3, 6/1, 6/1, 6/4, 6/2.