From the 4th to the 6th October Oxford University Lawn Tennis Club were invited to participate in the European University Clay Court Challenge at the Monte-Carlo Country Club in Monaco hosted by HEC Paris University. This tournament has been held on the clay courts at this prestigious club, the very same courts that the ATP Masters event is held on, for several years and it was a great opportunity for Oxford to be invited to play this year once again. Along with HEC and Oxford, the other universities that were invited were St Gallen’s (Switzerland), Bocconi (Italy), University of Nice and Cambridge. The format was one men’s and one women’s singles and one mixed doubles per match so Oxford brought a squad of 6 players for the 3 days. Ross Martin, Roman Kenny-Manning and Oliver Nunn were the three men picked and Nanami Yamaguchi, Eloise Hamilton and Megumi Kitazato were the three women chosen.
On the first day the six teams were drawn into groups of 3, with Oxford drawing HEC and Bocconi, with the top 2 teams from each group progressing into a knockout stage. Oxford’s first match was a tough one against Bocconi University from Milan, a team that featured world ranked players, and Oxford lost despite some well fought 3 set matches from Ross and Nanami. The next match was against HEC Paris, the hosts and last year’s runners-up, and inspired performances from Roman, Oliver and Megumi gave Oxford an emphatic victory over the hosts and placed Oxford second in the qualifying group, progressing to the knockout stages.
In the semi-finals of the knockout stages Oxford were drawn against a familiar foe in Cambridge. Despite a win in singles for Nanami, Cambridge were too good on the day and Oxford lost 2-1 in matches, putting us in the 3rd/4th playoff against St Gallen’s on the final day. Oxford battled and hustled hard on the clay but in the end St Gallen’s were victorious. Strong singles performances against Roman and Eloise as well as a hard-fought mixed doubles involving Ross and Nanami gave St Gallen’s the 3rd place, putting Oxford 4th. Despite losing the play-off matches, the event was a great experience for the Oxford players and was successful one by beating the previous year’s runners-up and with the team progressing further than they have in previous years.
Off the court the teams were treated to a dinner in the dining room of the prestigious Country Club on the Saturday night and got the opportunity to explore the sights of Monaco afterwards. After play had finished on the Sunday, the players were rewarded to a cocktail and canopy event as the award ceremony took place. The Oxford team then returned to Nice Airport and got back into Oxford very late on Sunday evening, just in time for early morning Monday training!
Overall, it was a great experience playing high level tennis on such famous courts as well as meeting many new friends from a wide array of universities, with plans in place to play some of these universities in friendly fixtures throughout Trinity Term in preparation for the Varsity match.