Real Tennis goes down to the wire

Kate Kirk 28 February 2013

The longest men’s doubles match in Varsity real tennis history was just one of the highlights at Lord’s last Friday and Saturday. Oxford edged the men’s Light Blues in a playoff while the ladies put up a brave fight, but could not overcome a big handicap deficit favouring Oxford.

The men’s team ended Friday’s play leading 2-0. The first match was a comfortable straight sets win for Cambridge’s no. 2 pair, Freddie Kalfayan and Alex Evans. The second match looked like it was going the same way when the no.1 pair of James Watson and captain Jules Camp won the first two sets. But the Oxford pair fought back to level the match. Watson and Camp took the first three games of the deciding set and held on to win 6-4 in the fifth set.

The first day of play for the ladies consisted of singles matches. Despite the handicap, both captain Emily Brady and Imogen Whittam took their matches to 3 sets. Newcomer Karen Pearce, playing only her fifth competitive match, lost in straight sets but showed a lot of promise. Emma Samia-Aly, the 2012 captain, won in straight sets against the 2012 Oxford captain, Maggie Henderson-Tew.

The two ladies’ doubles matches on Saturday were won by Oxford in straight sets. However, many games went to several deuces and the outcome of the match hinged on a few crucial points. Nonetheless, with a good pool of promising players in the squad, the Light Blues have high hopes of challengnig Oxford in the future.

Despite the men’s advantage at the end of play on Friday, the result was not a foregone conclusion with four singles matches left. Freddie Kalfayan won the first, meaning one more win would clinch the match overall. However, Oxford levelled the match 3-3 with strong displays and a doubles playoff was needed to decide the winner. Despite Kalfayan playing some unbelievable scoring volleys and Watson’s vast experience (2012 National League champion), the Oxford pair of Johnnie Beale and Miles Jackson remained solid and prevailed 6-3, 6-5.

It was a disappointing result for the men’s Light Blues. But with only Watson leaving the squad and some strong players moving up the handicaps, next year’s Varsity match is already shaping up to be equally if not more dramatic.

Kate Kirk