National League at National Tennis Club: March 5, 2013

By Ken Forton

Photos by Bill Burgin

            This past Tuesday was anything but a normal night at the National Tennis Club in Newport.  The attendees at that night’s National League match saw two of the world’s best court tennis players face off against each other in a singles match that was difficult to believe.  And, the lead-off match pitted a veteran pro against a more recently declared pro in a tough two setter.  While the doubles, which decided the night, was nearly violent.

            Let’s get down to it.  The first match of Tuxedo’s Josh Dodgson versus Newport’s own Rich Smith was hard fought.  The 22-year-old Dodgson, who has been playing since he was about 8 years old, certainly showed that his tutelage under Tim Chisholm at the Tuxedo Club must be doing him some good.  Smith, on his home court, had some difficulty hitting his rhythm.  A number of unforced errors, including an unusually high number of frames, stopped Smith from victory.  The first set looked like it could go either way for a bit, but the young Dodgson took it down 6-3.  The second set looked like it might be over sooner than later, but all of a sudden Smith began finding his targets and hitting some shots for length on the notoriously severe Newport court.  He brought it back from 3-0 Dodgson to 3 all.  Rich was able to eke out another game, but Dodgson dug deep and ended it 6-4.  Win to the Philadelphia/Tuxedo team.

            Next up: old friends Camden Riviere and Tim Chisholm.  Tim’s return to tennis has been pretty remarkable.  After sort of leaving the game and pursuing a career in business, the racquet gods came calling again and wooed him back from the nation’s heartland to the Tuxedo Club, where he is teaching and playing nearly every racquet sport played in the United States.  Camden’s past year has been even more remarkable.  Since recovering from his injuries in the middle of last year, he has won nearly every tournament he has entered except the British Open, where he fell in the semis to the World Champ Fahey.  Based on his performance on Tuesday, beating Fahey must be Cam’s only real goal now.  Let’s just say that Tim ran into a pile of Camdomination!   

            The match started out with the two players trading ground strokes played for length.  No matter, their retrieval skills just kept those points going.  Tim went up 2-0.  After a particularly long point I could see that Tim was breathing hard; Cam, on the other hand, looked like he was taking a walk.  After winning a game to go up 1-2, Cam tied it up at deuce, then hit a chase better than half and a wicked force.  This was typical for the night: Tim would get close to winning a game and then Cam’s service would dictate the next couple points until Cam closed out the game.  They traded games again until Cam was up 4-3 and then the set ended with two very fast games, Cam 6-3. 

            The second set again went a bit faster than anyone expected.  I would attribute this to a few factors.  First, Cam’s serve was just so accurate—it allowed him to dictate play virtually all night.  Second, Cam’s retrieval skills are virtually superhuman.  Likewise, his ability to predict the path of the ball and then adjust was incredible.  Cam took at least 4 balls off the back wall or bandeau without letting them touch the floor, placing one of them into the grille!  You just don’t see that in the amateur game.  Cam went up 5-0, when Chisholm dug as deep as he could to win a game after spending most of the second set trying to force his way to victory.  And make no mistake, I don’t know the miles per hour but Tim was hitting as hard as I have ever seen.  Cam closed it out 6-1.

            As is often the case in these National League matches, it all came down to the 8-game pro set doubles.  The first game could hardly have been a minute long.  No finesse—just lots of headhunting and heavy forcing.  New England/Aiken went up 5-1 until Tim and Josh started to sync up a bit and brought the score back to PhilTux 5, NEA 6.  Watching Tim tell Josh what to do was like getting a free lesson in world class doubles.  After Cam broke his second string of the night, he and Rich pulled it together and ended it in NEA’s favor 8-5.

            I was merely a guest from Boston, but there were about 75 in attendance with some great wine, pizza and other hors d’oeuvres.  The matches were well marked by Sergio Lopez.  Many thanks to Tom Rowe and the Board, Staff, and members of the National Tennis Club for a wonderful evening.