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134th Lawn Tennis Blues Varsity

The Oxford Men’s Blues went into the weekend with some optimism, following a reasonably successful BUCS campaign, which saw the team finish 2nd in their division, and a good set of results from fixtures played throughout Trinity term. However, with the Cambridge men being particularly strong this year, the reality of the challenge facing the team quickly set in on the first day, with the Oxford men 5-1 down after the first round of singles. These singles matches featured three particularly inspiring performances, all from first time Blues Varsity players, with a straight sets win from Lorenzo Catini and gruelling 3 set battles from Alexis Andronikos and Matt Vale, who unfortunately lost out in his singles 11-9 in the 3rd set after 3.5 hours.

The focus then shifted to the doubles, where again Cambridge showcased their dominance by winning all three matches during the first doubles round. This left the Oxford Men’s Blues 8-1 down going into the second and final doubles round of the day, needing to win at least one of these matches to keep the fixture alive. Fortunately, the Oxford number 1 doubles pair of Sam Christie and Brendan Emmanuel found some of the excellent doubles that they had brought to last year’s Varsity, where they won all 3 doubles matches, defeating their Cambridge opponents 7-5 in the third set to keep the Oxford men’s hopes alive. Meanwhile, the Oxford pair of captain Jack Pickering and Matt Vale were reunited after the ailing fresher had rediscovered his legs by resting during the first doubles round, finishing 7-6 6-7 against the Cambridge second pair, with dying light stopping play at 9:30pm on the Saturday evening.

The second day began with singles, with Pickering losing to the Cambridge number 2 in 3 sets, after fighting back from a set and break down. Despite having had long 3 set singles matches the day before, Vale and Andronikos found themselves battling hard in 3 set matches again, unfortunately losing out to the more experienced Cambridge number 5 and 6.

The final singles match of the weekend featured Brendan Emmanuel, the Oxford number 1, facing off against the former ATP ranked Cambridge number 1, Patrick Foley. Harnessing his clinical ground strokes and huge serve, which had clocked over 130 mph on Christie’s speed gun in training during the previous week, Brendan produced an inspiring performance, winning the match in straight sets 7-5 6-4.

The final doubles round of the weekend then followed, with Pickering and Vale again being stopped at 1 set all in their match, due to the scheduled presentation and dinner. This left the overall result at 4-17, which was a tough score for the Oxford men to take home, after losing five matches in 3 sets and having two incomplete doubles matches.

On the other hand, the Oxford Women’s Blues headed into the weekend knowing that a tight competition awaited them. This was immediately reflected with the first round of singles being tied at 3-3, with crucial straight sets wins from Sneha Kotecha and Maya Jamroz on their Blues Varsity debuts, a resilient 3 set victory from Anna Jones, and an epic 3 set battle involving Oxford women’s captain, Sama Malik, eventually falling to the top Cambridge player 7-5 in the third set after over 2.5 hours.

Next followed the first doubles round, in which Oxford won 2/3 doubles to take the overall lead over Cambridge 5-4, with a close fought 7-5 7-5 win for Malik and her partner, doubles specialist, Emilija Platukyte. The second doubles round saw Kotecha and her partner Asia claim their second win as a pair, with the partnership of Holly Russell and Maya Jamroz having their match suspended at 5-5 in the third set, due to the fading light on Saturday evening, leaving the overall score with Oxford 6-5 up overnight. 

The second day brought the second round of singles matches, with Kotecha and Jamroz dealing huge blows to the Cambridge number 1 and 6, beating them 6-1 6-0 and 6-0 6-0 respectively. Following another crucial 3 set singles victory from Anna Jones, the final round of doubles would begin with Oxford 9-8 up, needing only 2 matches to seal Varsity victory.

Following a big team huddle, in which coach Ed Isard and captain Malik gave some final words of wisdom and inspiration for the women, the pairs went out, ready to battle hard for the win. With Malik and Platukyte winning decisively in just over an hour, the attention turned to the court of Kotecha and Asia, who were a set up against the Cambridge first pair. After securing a tight 7-6 6-4 victory in this doubles, giving Kotecha her perfect 5/5 match record at this years competition, the women’s team had now reached the required 11 match wins to retain their Women’s Varsity trophy. This, however, didn’t stop the pairing of Jamroz and Russell from continuing their final match, winning the doubles in 3 sets, to make the final score 12.5-8.5 to Oxford.

The players would all like to thank Cambridge for hosting such a great weekend of tennis. This thanks extends to the key members of the junior and senior committees of both OULTC and CULTC, who are enabling both clubs to thrive with their continuing hard work and commitment to lawn tennis at both Oxford and Cambridge.

Men's and Women's Blues. Photo by Janai, @jinammon on Instagram.


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