The Men’s Varsity Squad was (*denotes Blue):
Sven Sylvester* (Trinity) [Captain]
Constantine Markides* (Wolfson) [Secretary]
Tim Prossor* (Girton)
James Shacklock* (St Edmunds)
Sam Ashcroft* (Magdalene)
Neil Cordon* (Churchill)
Charlie Cohen* (St Catherines)
Josh Phillips (Jesus)
The Great Eight
By Sven Sylvester
The 123rd annual Varsity tennis match held at the National Tennis Centre, Roehampton, saw a spirited Cambridge team beat Oxford by 12 matches to 9, retaining the Doherty Cup for an 8th consecutive year.
Having arrived at the National Tennis Centre on the morning of the Varsity match start, the Cambridge squad got off to a sluggish start. Oxford number one, Tim Matthewson, dominated proceedings 6-0, 6-4 against a younger Cambridge number two Tim Prossor. Solid Sam Ashcroft, at number 4 for Cambridge, put the Light Blues on the score-sheet, dispatching of Archie Burgess in style 6-0, 6-4. Neil Cordon, playing in his debut Varsity match, failed to capitalise on numerous chances against Aussie Zeb Nicholls, the Light Blue suffering at the hands of the Oxford number 5, 6-2, 7-6. Cambridge number one Constantine Markides faced a familiar foe, Greg Weir, but emerged second best after failing to take advantage of numerous game point chances. The Light Blues were up against the wall, until James Shacklock stepped up at number 3, against the unpredictable Pete White. After dropping the first set 7-6, James’ will and determination shone strongly as the Light Blue wrapped up the next two sets 6-2, 9-7. Cambridge Captain, Sven Sylvester, used his serve to full effect, to bully Matt Morrow off the court and despite a spirited come-back from the Oxford number 6 in the 2nd set, Sven served like John Isner to wrap up the match 6-4, 3-6 and 6-4, leaving the tie nicely poised at 3-3 after day 1.
Having been on the back foot for all of day 1, the Light Blues could not afford another negative start. With this in mind, Shacklock made light work of Burgess 6-0, 6-0, the Light Blues off to a positive start. Unfortunately, even though Markides made good use of his forehand early on against Matthewson, the Oxford number 1 soaked up the pressure to emerge victorious. In the battle of the Aussies, Nicholls took advantage of a tired-looking Sven, giving the Dark Blue a 6-4, 6-2 victory. A spirited Neil Cordon was first to draw blood against the Oxford number 6 Matt Morrow and moving his opponent from side to side he gave the Light Blues a much needed win 6-4, 6-3. The reliable Sam Ashcroft, looking uncharacteristically nervous, lost the first set to White. Sam fought back and firing on all cylinders he sealed the win 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, much to the delight of the Light Blue supporters. On Court 1, Prossor, despite being the better player for the 1st set and a half, had to settle for second best, after Weir dug deep to seal the win 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
With it all still to play for, there was a quiet confidence in the Light Blue camp that they had the upper hand in the doubles. The formidable Cambridge number one pair of Charlie Cohen and Shacklock barely broke sweat as they took apart the much weaker Dark Blue number 3 pair of White and Burgess, 6-2, 6-1. On the third court, the Cambridge number 2 pair of Markides and Prossor, suffered another psychological blow as they were defeated 6-3, 6-2 by Matthewson and Nicholls. Sven and Sam bounced back from a disastrous first set, to record perhaps the most important doubles win 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, giving the Light Blues a precious 8-7 lead going into the final day.
Day 3 of the battle commenced with the unstoppable force of Shacklock and Cohen proving too lethal in their approach against a withering Weir and Morrow, the Light Blues sending the Oxford pair packing 6-4, 6-2. Prossor and Markides also showed considerable character to record their first varsity win 6-2, 2-6, 6-2. Needing one more win to seal the deal, Sven and Sam came awfully close to ending the Dark Blue charge, but fell slightly short, losing 6-7, 6-2, 6-4 to Matthewson and Nicholls.
The final round was a stormy affair, with early devastating blows coming from the Oxford camp, as Prossor and Markides were outclassed by Weir and Morrow 6-3, 6-1. The Dark Blue ship then ground to a halt, when the Light Blue pair of Sven and Sam overturned a first set deficit, to shatter the Dark Blues dreams for an eighth year in a row. Cohen and Shacklock, continuing where they left off in the previous round, had far too much fire-power for Matthewson and Nicholls and charged to victory, securing an overall 12-9 Varsity win. The Varsity tournament had been a nervy affair for the most part, with the Light Blues securing a pivotal win over a rejuvenated Dark Blue side for the eighth time in a row, which can only give the Cambridge camp more confidence in the new season.