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Varsity Tennis 2020

Updated Mar 02, 2020 (Report)
Published Mar 01, 2020
Oxford win both Men's and Ladies' Real Tennis at MCC Report by Ben Geytenbeek

Ladies Match

  • Charlotte Hoskin beat Ulla Petti 6/3 6/2
  • Nanami Yamaguchi beat India Blaksley 6/2 6/0
  • Eve Shenkman beat Jacqueline Siu 6/0 6/1
  • Georgie Willis beat Sophia Lewis 6/0 6/0
  • Eve Shenkman & Nanami Yamaguchi beat Jacqueline Siu & Ulla Petti 6/0 6/1
  • Georgie Willis & Charlotte Hoskin lost to Sophia Lewis & India Blaksley 1/6 5/6
Oxford Ladies won 5-1

Men's Match

  • Frederick Freeman beat Jack Drew 6/3 6/2
  • James Bates beat Marc Bonaventura 2/6 6/4 6/2
  • Benedict Yorston lost to Ivo Macdonald 4/6 6/5 3/6
  • Rory Giddins beat Ed Hyde 6/1 6/0
  • Benedict Yorston & James Bates beat Marc Bonaventura & Jack Drew 3/6 6/2 6/0 6/1
  • Rory Giddins & Frederick Freeman beat Ed Hyde & Ivo Macdonald 6/2 6/3 3/6 5/6 6/5
Oxford Men won 5-1

Varsity Match, sponsored by PolRoger, Day 1

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

Varsity Match sponsored by Pol Roger: Day 2

Jacqueline Siu lost to Eve Shenkman 0/6 1/6
The first match of the morning went the way of Oxford with a clincial display from Shenkman. She settled into the match quite quickly, as Siu was trapped down the hazard end. Shenkman kept finding the grille or the tambour as she raced away with the first set. Siu settled down at the start of the second, as the rallies got longer Siu started playing better and better. Siu took a game early in the second set, attacking two very short chases to win it. However, it seemed as though no matter how good a shot Siu had, Shenkman always had an answer and went on to win it in straight sets.

Jack Drew lost to Frederick Freeman 3/6 2/6
Drew started well, much like in his doubles match the previous day, taking the first few games against his stronger opponent. However, very quickly Freeman was able to impose himself into the match, making Drew run to all corners of the court. That said, Drew held his own, with some excellent retrieval especially off the tambour and under the grille. By the second set, Drew took another lead, and had chances to extend it, but Freeman was able to beat some relatively short chases to hold on. Despite throwing everything he could at it, there wasn’t much more that Drew could do as Freeman held steady to win comfortably.

Marc Bonaventura lost to James Bates 6/2 4/6 2/6
Bonaventura continued his trend of starting well, pummeling consistent shots into Bates’ backhand corner to race to an early lead in the first set. His play was consistently inches over the net and very accurate with his volleying. Bates never looked in it as Bonaventura raced to take an early lead. However, in the second set, Bates started to find his groove. A close deuce battle in the second game set the tone, with momentum shifting one way to the other. Bonaventura looked to have the edge, but Bates kept asking questions of his game. Bonaventura had the advantage with the score at 4-all, and up in the game. But Bates showed a lot of class across a long series of deuces, just edging out a lead, cheered on by a raucous crowd. Bates took the set and momentum, racing to a lead in the third. But Bonaventura wasn’t out of it yet, fighting back and making an interesting 2-4 game. A bit of fortune and a lot of skill gave the game, and the match, to Bates. With that victory, Oxford sealed the match, with the Cambridge team ruing several missed chances.

Sophia Lewis and India Blaksley defeated Georgie Willis and Charlotte Hoskin 6/1 6/5
Cambridge notched up its first win of the weekend in a surprise but well earned victory in the Women’s first seed doubles. Lewis and Blaksley went out with a solid plan to target Hoskin and it appeared to be paying off. The near-capacity crowd transitioned from stunned disbelief to a loud and boisterous cheer squad as the Cambridge pair kept picking off Hoskin at the net. At the service end, Blaksley demonstrated her deadly net volleys and Lewis stayed solid at the back of the court. The games kept going Cambridge’s way as Willis frustration grew. Blaksley hit a fantastic net volley into the winning gallery to seal the first set. Oxford switched receivers in the second, and it appeared to have paid off, racking up four quick games. But the Cambridge girls held their nerve and returned to their initial strategy of picking off Hoskin. Slowly, they clawed their way back into the set. Their confidence grew, and started hitting shots at Willis that even she couldn’t get back. Towards the end, her frustration boiled over. Despite dropping the game at 4-all, Cambridge finished strong, with Blaksley winning the match with an ace under-arm twist against Willis to the joy of the crowd.

Ivo Macdonald def Benedict Yorston 6/4 5/6 6/3
Following the success of the women’s doubles, Macdonald notched up the first victory for the men’s team. It was a hard fought nearly three hour long match, with the two players barely separated by more than a couple of points or games at any point in the match. A lot of the games went to deuce, which were all narrowly won by the small margins. Both players used the whole court, boasting the ball of any surface they felt like. Yorston pushed Macdonald again and again, but Macdonald was up to the task and was able to get just about everything back. Macdonald took the first set as Yorston celebrated early, assuming he had hit the grille, but Macdonald retrieved it and went on to win a chase and then the set. The second set was even tighter, neither player seemed to get much momentum and both were starting to feel low on energy though they didn’t want to show it. By the time the set went to 5-all, Yorston had the better game and managed to take the set. By the third set, Macdonald started to get the upper hand, serving his tight railroads and finally managing to get a few main-wall boasts into the dedans. As the match approached three hours, Macdonald got the edge in a couple of games to take Cambridge to victory.

Ed Hyde lost to Rory Giddins 1/6 0/6
By comparison, the final match was over rather quickly. Giddins had Hyde running to all the corners of the court, but the shots were far too accurate and too precise. Despite getting an early game, it was all one way traffic. Nevertheless, the crowd were now giddy on their Pol Roger Champagne and ready for the reception and dinner. Many thanks must go to the MCC for hosting a fabulous event and to Pol Roger for their continued sponsorship. Best wishes are sent from all the players, staff and spectators to Chris Swallow with hopes for a speedy recovery. Huge plaudits must go to Lord’s professional Jack Clifton for a sterling effort with the marking and to Peter Patterson and the Oxford pros for their assistance. Congratulations go to Oxford, although plans for revenge are already in the works!

Ben Geytenbeek

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