It was with bleary eyes and tousled hair that the women’s tennis Blues travelled to the West Country for the first BUCS match of the New Year. Unfortunately, the horrendously early start, the biting cold and, no doubt, too many mince pies made for a somewhat sluggish start to the season. This was always going to be a very tough match. A very strong Cambridge side had already lost to Exeter 8-4 in the home fixture last term and the Exeter team is currently in second place in the Southern Premiership division.
Two-times Blue Kadi Saar (Trinity) teamed up with fresher Jessica Fullman (Trinity Hall), who was making her debut for the Blues team, to take on Exeter’s number one pair. Sadly, even Kadi’s experience on the Estonian women’s tour the week before was not enough to make a dent in the seasoned Exeter pair’s armour. Both girls had attempted to become professionals, before choosing to attend university instead and their quality showed, quickly closing the match 6-0 6-1.
Marilena Papadopoulou (Trinity) and Sophie Walker (Peterhouse), an undefeated pairing in the 2012 Varsity match, lasted a little longer on court. However, they came away with little to show for it. Although every game going to deuce, the BUCS scoring system of sudden death deuces did little to work in their favour as a combination of nerves and post-holiday rustiness prevented them from converting deuces to games. Despite some excellent net play and close-fought games, the Cambridge pair lost 6-1 6-2.
And so it was four-love down that the Blues went into the singles round nut they were nonetheless determined to make Exeter work for the next rubbers. Saar, sporting a knee injury, was unfortunately forced to pull out of her singles a set and one love down. Papadopoulou put up a courageous fight against the Exeter number two. Chasing down every ball, the match was a lengthy one and although she lost, Papadopoulou came off court with her head held high and a very creditable score of 6-4 6-2 against a far more experienced player. Skipper Walker also had a tough match at number three but showed a little less mettle than her doubles partner, losing 6-2 6-0. The real star of the show was Fullman who secured the team’s only win; an impressive debut indeed. She battled fiercely to win the first set on a tie-break. A set up and on a role she was soon serving for the match at 5-4 but nerves kicked in and she was pipped a the post, losing the set 7-5. However, she was not out of the running yet and with renewed determination she brushed aside any nerves to win a tense and nail-biting championship tiebreak 10-7.
With this excellent win from Fullman the day was not a complete whitewash and the team showed that they have a solid foundation on which to build before they play Cardiff Metropolitan and Bournemouth in the final two matches of the season, both of whom they need to beat in order to secure their position on the Premiership Division.
Sophie Walker – Women’s Tennis Blues Captain