The 2013 Palmetto Challenge took place at the Aiken Tennis Club on the 16th of November. The match featured the top two ranked players in the world, current World Champion Rob Fahey and World no. 1 Camden Riviere. The event was hosted to support the efforts of Court Tennis Charleston, who are working with the USCTA to build a court at the Daniel Island Club in Charleston, SC. Before the match started the crowd was treated to a very informative on court presentation from the Daniel Island Company about the hopeful new club. With over 140 people in attendance Fahey and Riviere stormed the court, preparing for their 3rd battle in only four weeks. The match was filled with incredible rallies, as well as some light humor at times. Riviere proved too strong on the night though taking the match 6-2, 6-5. The bigger winner of the night though was Charleston, and the hopeful addition of a court in the near future.
The Palmetto Challenge started off what would be a fantastic week of tennis, with the Calhoun Witham Handicap Doubles being played. Over 20 teams came to play from all over the world, and the matches were the closest they had been in years. This years tournament saw a new format with two divisions being played the A division for 30-55 handicaps, and the B division for over 55 handicaps.
The A division featured sixteen teams in four round robin groups, with the top 2 teams from each division qualifying for the quarter-finals. This year’s tournament saw more 3 set matches than ever before, showing huge steps forward for the American handicap accuracy. The Finals featured a team a new players from the UK Colm O’Shea and Oliver Hawkins, against the veteran Washington pair of Michael Moore and Martin Whitmer. The match was incredibly close the first set, with both teams trading games to 3-all. Whitmer & Moore then took the advantage claiming the set 6-4. The second set saw Whitmer & Moore cruise to a 4-0 lead, before O’Shea/Hawkins made one of the best comebacks of all time. From 4-0 down O’Shea and Hawkins only lost two more games the entire match. Taking the second set 6-5 and claiming a 4-0 lead in the third set before their opponents could capture another game. O’Shea and Hawkins closed out the match 6-1 to claim their first ever tournament win. Not only was it their first tournament win, it was the first tournament they had ever played!
The B-division had five teams all playing in one round robin group, with the top two teams making it to the finals. The Final was an all-Aiken battle with Henry Cato and Cheryl Glance taking on Warren Dempsey and Shannon Ellis. In the round robin group stage the two teams had played, with the match going to 5-all in the third set! The Final was a close as it could be with the teams trading games to 5-all in the first set. Ellis & Dempsey came together when they needed to though taking the set 6-5 and the lead. The second set saw some great rallies and the twist and turns in momentum we all expected. Glance & Cato pulled ahead though and took set 6-3. The Final set was too close to call the entire way. Neither team was more than a game ahead, and at 5-5 it was anyone’s to take. Ellis & Cato came out on top though taking the final set 6-5 and that was the match!
A huge thank you to Dacre Stoker for all of his organization, Camden Riviere for the tireless marking, and Michael Sullivan and his team for throwing the great social events we have all come to expect from the Aiken Tennis Club.