MCC Real Tennis Section representative Robert Fahey has won an amazing 10th world title, taking nine sets to defeat challenger Steve Virgona on the third day of the final at Royal Melbourne Tennis Club on Saturday.
The man dubbed the “Roger Federer of real tennis” controlled the contest from the outset.
Needing seven sets to win the best-of-13-set final, he led 3-1 on the opening day, increased his lead to 6-2 on the second day, closing it out in the opening set on Saturday.
Fahey belied his 42 years to repeatedly run down shots from his younger opponent. Fahey's railroad serve worked well, while Virgona struggled to find a serve to curb the champion's return.
Fahey has been the world champion since 1994, which makes him one of Australia’s most successful sportsmen. A modest man, the world number one’s achievements are extraordinary. He has won 11 Australian Opens, 10 French Opens, eight US Opens and eight British Opens. Not to mention three grand slams (2000, 2001 and 2008) and three world doubles titles!
ABOUT REAL TENNIS
According to Melbourne’s head professional Frank Filippelli, real tennis at the top level is “brutal, awesome, savage and intellectually demanding.”
“There are so many ways of getting on top of your opponent and strategies and tactics play a big part of the game," he said. "Real Tennis is easily the best racquet game on earth, especially when you know the capabilities of the players and how difficult the game is to master.”
According to Filippelli (who won the Australian Open in 1995) Fahey is the Roger Federer of real tennis, equipped with both mental and physical strength, a flawless technique, the best serve in the game and a brutal return.
Notably, during his career Fahey has won 40 national titles – Australian, French, US, British Opens.
Fahey is the 26th holder of the world championship title, which was first contested in 1740 when it was won by a Frenchman, Clerge the Elder.
Real tennis, first played in France in monastery courtyards, precedes its lawn tennis cousin by more than 600 years and is the forerunner of all the world’s racquet games.
Although there were hundreds of real tennis courts throughout the world 300 years ago, including 250 in Paris alone, there are now only 40, and about 10,000 active players.
Australia has four clubs – Melbourne, Hobart, Romsey (north-west of Melbourne) and Ballarat.
The game requires great commitment to play the top level. The balls are solid and can be hit at speeds of 160 kilometres an hour (hit with uppercut rather than topspin). There are also 50 types of serve including the boomerang, railroad, demi-piquet and giraffe.