RETURNING hero Nick Howell saw his hopes of becoming champion dashed as a Camden Riviere masterclass saw the American claim a straight sets victory in their World Eliminator first-round clash at The Oratory School, writes Richard Ashton.

World No. 5 Howell, who was back at his former school, produced some of his best tennis to date, but found top-ranked Riviere in unplayable form as he slipped to a 6-3, 6-1, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 defeat.

The two players thrilled a near-capacity crowd with some terrific rallies, but Riviere was often too strong at key moments and ran out victorious.

Despite defeat, Howell remained upbeat and said: “I gave it everything and really played my heart out – I couldn’t have played much better, but he was just relentless.

“There were a lot of games which were close, but at the end of the day Camden was just too good.

“I want to thank The Oratory for hosting the event and for all the people who came to support.

“It’s my first eliminator and I’ll be back, but it’s been a great experience.”

Riviere was equally gracious in victory, paying tribute to his beaten rival.

He told the Chronicle: “It was a lot tougher than the scoreline might suggest. He played really, really well – a level or two better than I’ve ever seen him play and he was consistent through all five sets. It was a great match.”

With the majority of the crowd firmly in Howell’s corner, Riviere admitted it added to the atmosphere in what he said had been an excellent trip.

He reflected: “I get used to it because I play away a lot of the time, and when you play in these World Championship events you always expect that. But it’s just great to have this many people out supporting, and to have a loud crowd – whether it’s for you or against you – makes it a lot of fun.

“It’s been great to be here. It’s been about 17 years since I was last here and everything’s been re-done, it looks great and the court plays very well.

“In America we don’t have too many clubs in schools, so it’s great to see over here the chance to get the youth involved.”

Having taken victory, Riviere will face the winner of the Chris Chapman-Ben Taylor-Matthews game, with the winner having a shot at champion Rob Fahey MBE.

And Riviere, the 2016 winner, concluded: “I’d love to get a shot at revenge because he took it off me two years ago, so I’d like to take it back.”