Men’s Tennis Varsity Report
With Cambridge 6-3 up in 2011 Barclays Men’s Tennis Varsity Match after intense heat and humidity, a violent thunderstorm engulfed the LTA’s National Tennis Centre. The referee, more concerned about lightning striking the players than the condition of the courts, moved the matches off the grass and on to the one available indoor hard court.
Kirill Zavodov (Magdalene), our Russian #2 and previous top international junior, was up against Oxford’s #2, their captain and two-time Scottish Junior Champion. KZ hurt the Oxford player with some powerful serving and returning, but his opponent could do exactly the same and put Kirill to the sword 1-6, 3-6.
At #4, Kenny Taubenslag (Emmanuel) had a barn burner with his hard hitting Oxford counterpart. After some brutal rallies and buoyed on by the escalating volume of the crowd, Kenny made a crucial break at the end of the first set and continued to serve it out in style. Continuing to play smart tennis in the second set, he took the rubber calmly 6-4, 6-4.
Greg Caterer (St. John’s) found it hard to find his usual rhythm against the Oxford #6. Everyone was slightly concerned, as this was a match we had banked on winning. A set and a break down, his dad was forced to watch from a distance and other parents had to stop watching because of the tension.
The match was hanging in the balance when a sublime moment occurred. Greg reached an approach shot to hoist a lob over his opponent’s head and followed it into the net. The Oxford player scampered back to the deep ball and managed to hit a shot through his legs up the line. Greg dived like Boris Becker to his right, ignoring all personal injury on the hard court, to direct a forehand volley cross court for a winner. The crowd erupted with euphoria, Greg jumped up from the floor, red in the face, fist pumping, shouting “Come on Cambridge!!!” This game was pivotal, as Greg came back to steal the set and the match 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
With a hard fought 8-4 lead entering the third and final day, we required three of the nine doubles matches to seal victory. Back on the grass, Sven Sylvester (Trinity) & Nick Jenkins (St. John’s) started with a marathon match against the Oxford second pair. Reaching 6-6 in the third set, it is Varsity tradition to play it out as an advantage set rather than a tie break, and both players and supporters eager for an Isner-Mahut classic. A match point saw Sven slam a forehand return at the Oxford net player only to see the ball spin off the frame of his racquet and across the face of the net. Nick scampered after the ball, but could only watch in disbelief as the ball span backwards into the net. Oxford hung in and at 8-8 the referee stepped in to call a tie break due to the time pressure. We unfortunately couldn’t take it and lost the match 6-3, 6-7, 8-9.
The Oxford second pair now brimming with confidence started to play even better and the Oxford first pair proved too strong for us all, rapidly diminishing our lead. Thankfully, we all dominated their third pair, our top pair of Cam Johnston (Christ’s) & Bruno Monteferri (Hughes Hall) dismantled them on our way to a 12-9 victory overall.
So, with great relief and pride, we lifted the Doherty Cup and jeroboam of Pol Roger for the sixth consecutive year. Our strength in depth, which had made the team selection so difficult, was the decisive factor in winning match. The depth was reflected in a resounding 18-3 Varsity victory by the second team two weeks previously. Once again, our superior support from the sidelines, including reserve Rob Legg (Downing), was a telling factor in many of the tight matches.
Women’s Tennis Varsity Report
Any light blue supporters who found themselves at the National Tennis Centre in late June were certainly not disappointed by the women’s performance. Stellar performances from every player resulted in a 16-5 light blue victory, an impressive result following last year’s 18-3 demolition.
Day 1 dawned bright and proved to be a scorcher. On the tennis court, that is. Fresher Georgia Archer-Clowes (Churchill), playing at #4, put up a valiant effort against the opposition, whacking out her un-playable forehand winners, but ultimately losing 6-7 6-7. Corina Balaban (Homerton), playing at #6, brought 2 years’ of victorious Varsity experience to the court and commendably took her nemesis to 3 tough-fought sets, 6-4 2-6 6-1. So far Oxford was 2-0 up. However, the momentum shifted back towards the light blue following the third match. Cambridge’s #2 and Secretary, Emma Kudzin (Newnham), stuck it out in a gritty, three-hour long ordeal to conquer Oxford’s #1, 6-7 7-5 6-1, after being just two points away from defeat. The light blue rampage had begun.
The second round began with characteristic Cantabridgian confidence. Captain Laura Morrill (Murray Edwards) proved exactly why she was #1, demolishing Oxford’s #2, 6-1 6-1, in a match that lasted, at most, an hour. Kadi Saar, Cambridge’s new Estonian recruit playing at #3, followed suit and finished off Oxford’s #4 with little effort, winning in a double bagel, 6-0 6-0. Sophie Walker (Peterhouse), the third fresher, playing at #5, brought the day’s play to a successful end as she whizzed around the court to win 6-1 6-1. Cambridge led 4-2 on a day that should have ended 3-3.
On Day 2, Cambridge awoke refreshed, regenerated and rearing to go. They wanted to nail victory by the end of the day, just like last year. The weather, however, had other ideas. Morrill started in characteristic manner- total and utter annihilation of Oxford’s #1, 6-0 6-1. Similarly, Saar calmly strolled through her match (6-4 6-0). However, the weather chose to intervene at this point. Walker was mid-match and Kudzin was just starting her match when an ominous gloom overshadowed the grass courts. It soon began to thunder heavily and lightning appeared. In a dramatic move the referee, Bob Jenkins, quickly pulled all the players off the courts in fear for their safety, and play was resumed indoors. Walker showed plucky determination to battle through a tough final set and win 2-6 7-6 6-4. Kudzin dropped a tight first set but, true to form, refused to give in and grimly persevered to win another three-setter, 4-6 6-3 6-2. Balaban completed the indoor hat-trick by demolishing her opposition 6-0 6-3 with aplomb, elegance and style. Archer-Clowes was the only unlucky player to lose her second singles, 3-6 2-6. The score was 9-3 to Cambridge. The women were just two matches away from winning Varsity in a mere two days. However, they were to be denied this honour. There was not enough time left so all the doubles would be played on the final day.
The #1 Captain- Secretary pairing, Morrill and Kudzin, won the first match of Day 3. Their strong partnership, virtually undefeated all year, destroyed Oxford’s #3 pair in under an hour, 6-0 6-1. Cambridge’s #2 pairing Saar and Archer-Clowes played spectacularly to defeat Oxford’s #1 pair 6-7 6-1 6-2. Walker and Balaban, the charismatic #3 pair, also brought home another win. Victory! 12-3. The Cambridge team took a few minutes’ respite to celebrate their third Varsity win in a row. Then it was back to business. Morrill and Kudzin comfortably won their remaining two doubles- a fitting end to a very successful partnership. Reserves Georgie Kilbourn (Trinity Hall) and Lizzie Gorton (Murray Edwards) stepped in to win two final matches for the team. The final score was 16-5. A wonderful ending to a very successful year and a laurel well-deserved by a young, relatively inexperienced team that had improved tremendously over the course of the year and played their light blue socks off.
All that remained was to kiss the trophy, celebrate (courtesy of Pol Roger) and exult in our victory. What a feeling.