Newport, RI, Thursday, May 22, 2004: Tim Chisholm, now a second time challenger without a World Championship title, came within a single point of extending the match to Saturday. Tim should take heart in the knowledge that it took other great players several tries to reach this pinnacle in the sport.
Serving at 5/4 up in the second set, having taken the first one with the energy and style his fans are accustomed to seeing from Tim, he squandered a 40/30 advantage over Rob Fahey, even as the Champion appeared to be scrambling to stay in the set. This was Rob working harder than we saw on Tuesday, harder, because Tim was finding the floor with length, and hitting his main wall dedans boast with greater accuracy. Tim opened this game serving, and right away took 15-0 with a grille shot. Rob chose to take Tim’s next service as a hazard chase one-half yard, and then created a superb chase 1 & 2 to take the service end.
Tim’s return of serve, a main wall boast, clipped the dedans ledge and bounced out for an easy set-up for Rob, but the Champion put it in the net on one of many errors we did not see from him on Tuesday. Today, he looked mortal.
At 30-0, Tim lost the short chase, but still had 30-15. A long rally (and there were many today!) ended with the strokes at 30-all. Tim’s next service return was deep and with vicious cut into Rob’s backhand corner, drawing the error from Rob, and Tim was within a point of taking the set.
Rob then pulled off a perfect caterpillar, a ridiculous, unreturnable serve, deuce! Tim’s next service return was another attempt at a main wall boast that went high for the putaway by Rob. Ad to the Champion, and when Rob hit yet another perfect caterpillar, Tim could not return it and the set went to 5/5. A collective groan went up from the partisan crowd.
In the deciding game of this set, which would have guaranteed Chisholm a Saturday date with Fahey, at 15-all, Tim created a last gallery chase but then missed two easy shots to change ends at 40-15. Serving, Tim tried to put a ball into the winning gallery and narrowly missed, leaving Rob to put him on the defensive. Rob’s hard hit return to Tim’s backhand sent Tim flying into the air to retrieve the ball, but with a netted shot, and Tim flat on his stomach on the 2nd gallery line, the point, and the set, went to the Champion, to the approving echoes of “Oyez, oyez, oyez” from the Aussies.
Tim Chisholm, picture perfect. (photo by Bill Burgin)
The difference between a 2-0 recess to clean the court and a 1-all recess was night and day, to everyone, players and spectators alike. Tim had eight long minutes to think about the missed opportunity, and when he came back on court, the energy was gone. Tim won but a single game in this third set, and was facing elimination.
It was as if the air had been sucked out of the building. The crowd had gone quiet — the only one talking was Tim, to himself, trying to fight his way back in. But it was at this point that Fahey took it up a notch, and why not? Leading 6 sets to one, Rob was on cruise control. But there is no doubt that Rob preferred to win today and be done with it. And he started out in good position to do so, winning the first game of the fourth set at love.
When the set score went to 2/0 to Rob, it seemed as if things were over. Rob had won 10 of the last 11 games, the heat was turned up, he was “on.”
Yet, Tim battled on, point by point, even as it appeared a little fatigue was setting in. His cut was not as sharp, the placement not as pinpoint, as in the first set, and more balls were going up on the roof or into the net. Great champions, though, know where to find something within. Tim dug down and clawed back to go up 40-0, then used the galleries to gain the service side (a tactic not seen enough on Tuesday) and took the third game. He scratched out the next game, and at 2-all in the fourth, there was reason to hope the Challenger could make miracles happen.
The players traded games to go to 3-all, but Rob made short work of the seventh game to go up 4/3. The eighth and ninth were the final games of this Championship, quick work for the Champion who, despite Tim’s best efforts, retained his World Championship title.
In the brief on-court ceremony immediately following, Jane Lippincott, the NTC president and World Championship Organizing Committee Chair, thanked the sponsors, including the title sponsor, Daniel Chapter One, to great applause. Eric Feijo, representing Daniel Chapter One, presented the runner-up check of $16,400 to Tim Chisholm, and the winner’s check of $57,400 (!) to Rob Fahey.
Rob Fahey spoke, in a voice so calm it was almost subdued, as he thanked those in attendance, and gave recognition to Xanthe Ranger, Ruraidh Gunn, the National Tennis Club, the sponsors. Finally, to the delight of the Aussies in the crowd, Rob hoisted the enormous World Championship plate aloft.
Final Scores: Rob Fahey (Aus) beat Tim Chisholm (USA) 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, 6-0, 4-6, 6-5, 6-1, 6-3. Fahey wins 7-1 overall.