M5 entered the 2019 Varsity tie having ruthlessly beaten Cambridge 19-2 the previous year. It was evident from the start that Cambridge had much improved their squad, but would it be enough to topple the Oxford cohort under the guidance of their captain Harry Orrin? We arrived at the other place on Friday evening. After an “authentic” French dinner at La Maison du Steak and an inspiring team talk, M5 were ready once more to conquer their Cambridge equivalents.
Saturday morning brought testing conditions: blue skies and temperatures of up to 36 degrees. At the Churchill College courts there was no shade; no place to hide. Upon our arrival, number 1 seed Justin Kenny was already there. Like a good red wine, Kenny seems to get better with age ruthlessly dismissing his stubborn opponent 6-4, 6-2. Next up was 3rd seed Thomas Moss. Having turned up late, feverish and without water on what was surely the hottest day of the year, you could be forgiven for thinking Thomas was somewhat unprepared for his match. But you would be wrong. Fighting back from 4-6, 1-5 30-40 down, Thomas won the captivating match 4-6, 7-5, 7-5. This was the catalyst for a string of superb results for M5, notably Harry dismantling the Cambridge 4th seed 6-2, 6-0. Well-fought losses from Maximillian Rudloff and Peter Mathieson meant Cambridge had a lifeline, but not for long. A successful first round of doubles increased our lead- highlights included a brilliant display from the iconic duo Jelani Munroe and Tom Davison beating a strong Cambridge pair in 3 sets: 6-7, 6-0, 6-4.
We went into the final day 7-2 up and were reminded that the wise Jarlath Brine once said “tomorrow is another day”; complacency was not on our agenda. Eric Zhong was first up against the same Cambridge opponent Thomas had masterfully overcome. Having witnessed Eric copiously consume XX hot PERi-PERi sauce at a Nandos team dinner the night before, it was clear he was fearless. This was demonstrated on court with a comprehensive beating of his opponent 6-3, 6-2. Fluid backhand strokes would have impressed even Roger himself. Efficient and emphatic wins from Harry and Justin meant they were on and off court in under 45 minutes. Meanwhile, Peter won an epic match in 3 sets 6-3, 6-7, 7-5, and Max impressed with a 2-set victory. The final round of doubles cemented M5 victory: with skilful net play and pure determination, Harry and Justin won a captivating match coming back from 5-1 down in the second set to win 6-2, 7-5. Thomas and Max also took the spoils in their final match which wouldn’t have been out of place on the grass courts of Wimbledon. In the end, M5 won 18-3.
Billie Jean King said that “tennis is a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquillity.” Everyone gave everything they had and supported each other on and off court. It was a great example of the spirit of OULTC and how hard work and determination can lead to success regardless of what obstacles lie ahead. We thank Cambridge for a great Varsity and look forward to playing them next year on home turf.