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Varsity Match, sponsored by @PolRoger, Day 1

Posted on February 29, 2020 | in Giraffe, Match Report, NewsTicker | by

Oxford took the honours on Day 1 of the Varsity Match at Lord’s. Oxford have an unassailable lead in the Women’s Varsity, and the men stole a key advantage going into Day 2.

Ulla Petti lost to Charlotte Hoskin 2/6 3/6
The day started with the 4th seed women’s singles. Petti started well for Cambridge, putting the first point of the day into the grille as she raced to a solid start. However, Hoskin held her nerve on several key points midway through the set. Petti was retrieving well, heaving the ball back over the net with some excellent retrieving from her double-handed backhand. Hoskin played some excellent shots and put the ball into difficult areas, but Petti held her own. She pushed Hoskin hard in both sets, but ultimately Oxford ran away with the momentum in the second half of both of them.

Jacqueline Siu & Ulla Petti lost to Nanami Yamaguchi & Eve Shenkman 0/6 1/6
After her sister made her debut for Cambridge the week before, N. Yamaguchi demonstrated the pedigree of lawn tennis in the family. Siu managed to get a handle on Shenkman’s serve, but kept hitting it to N. Yamaguchi up at the galleries who was able to volley anything and everything near her. The Cambridge pair were able to hold their own through enough of the points, but never seemed to get enough momentum going until the end of the match, where two aces from Petti into the nick finally won them a game.

Marc Bonaventura & Jack Drew lost to Benedict Yorston and James Bates 6/3 2/6 0/6 1/6
Bonaventura came out strong in the first match of the Men’s Varsity. The Cambridge pair hit the ground running, racing through the first few games. The match was epitomised by long rallies along the main wall between Bonaventura and Yorston, with Drew chipping in well off the tambour and up at the galleries. Both played with calmness and focus through the first set, chasing everything down and taking a 6/3 lead. However, in the second set a controversial call seemed to rattle the Cambridge pair: a ball bounced off the back wall onto the ledge of the last galley, and Yorston scooped it over the net whilst it was still rolling as the crowd cried throw. Yorston began to play better and better as the match went on, as the Cambridge pair struggled to get their feet moving well. By the third set, the match turned into a rout, with Oxford playing classy tennis and Cambridge fighting hard to stay in it.

India Blaksley lost to Nanami Yamaguchi 2/6 0/6
Despite double faulting on the first point, Blaksley settled into the match much faster than N. Yamaguchi, as she took two early games and made the match look like it was going to be close. It wasn’t to be, however, as N. Yamaguchi took her volleying skills from the earlier doubles match and executed it brilliantly in the singles. Blaksley tried hard to put the ball in difficult places, but as soon as it went anywhere near her favourite areas, N. Yamaguchi was able to place the ball wherever she wanted. Blaksley couldn’t seem to find a tactic that would work, as Oxford ran away with it from the middle of the first set onwards. Blaksley held her head high and keep fighting for the rest of the match, but it wasn’t to yield any more games.

Sophia Lewis lost to Georgie Willis 0/6 0/6
Willis kept her dominant streak in the Women’s Varsity going as she dispatched of S. Lewis, showing why she is the best female student player going around. To her credit, S. Lewis fought well, keeping the ball in play and even getting a few good winners in. Willis was a class above though, and though the crowd was on her side, there wasn’t much S. Lewis could do against it. So she fought brave and played in good spirit.

Ed Hyde & Ivo Macdonald lost to Rory Giddins and Frederick Freeman 2/6 3/6 6/3 6/5 5/6
The most exciting match of the day was saved until the very end. A passionate crowd witnessed an absolutely nailbiting match from start to finish, with plenty of high quality tennis on display. The first few games oscillated back and forth, with Oxford winning the key points to take a 1/4 lead early on. Both Macdonald and Hyde took a bit of time to settle into the match from there on, as Giddins played them to all corners of the court. Soon enough, Oxford had won the first set, and was on their way to taking a commanding lead in the second. Despite being ten handicap points below the rest of the field, Freeman was holding is own as well, putting a few winners past the Cambridge pair. By the third set, it was do-or-die for Cambridge, and both players started to fight for it. Macdonald found his range with the accuracy on the dedans, with hard, straight forces that were difficult to return. Hyde also showed how excellent a retriever he is, combined with some excellent and accurate backhand volleys. When Cambridge took the third set, it looked to be anybody’s match. All of a sudden, the crowd were deeply invested in the match, cheering on every point. Cambridge came from behind in the fourth set, going to a tense 5-all game. In the fifth set, and with the match heading deep into its third hour, Cambridge took the lead for the first time since the first ten minutes of the match. Games were traded each way, and momentum swung wildly. At 5-4, Cambridge looked to be running away with it, but their shots hit every side and ledge around the grille without going in. Eventually, Oxford took the serve, and by the final 5-all game, held on for the match.

Cambridge go into Day 2 needing a series of excellent performances in the Men’s singles. The Women’s singles is even more uphill, with a tough first seed doubles match still to come. The dinner and champagne reception sponsored by Pol Roger will be held following the play.

Ben Geytenbeek

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