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The Men’s Blues team lost the Varsity Match 11-7 against Oxford. As was the case in 2015, the fixture was held jointly with the women’s Varsity Match at Moor Park Golf Club, Rickmansworth.
The 2016 Lawn Tennis Varsity match was held for the second year in succession at Moor Park Golf Club in Buckinghamshire over the second and third of July. The contest between the two sides was set to be very evenly fought, with both squads having prepared thoroughly for the event over the course of the academic year. The Light Blues squad provided an exciting combination of youth and experience; while three of the seven players were competing in their first Blues Varsity Match, the other four players (including former Captain Tim Prossor and number two player Sam Ashcroft, the latter of whom was returning to the squad having been unable to attend the 2015 match) had each participated in the fixture on a considerable number of occasions between them and were all long-established members of the Blues squad.
The first round of singles was a disappointing one for the Cambridge team, with Ashcroft and Alex Cole both losing in extremely close three-setters – Ashcroft in particular being desperately unlucky to be defeated 7-9 in the deciding set against the Oxford number one player – and Prossor, captain Gerald Wu and vice-captain Jerry Ganendra all going down in straight sets. Indeed, it was only thanks to the heroics of number five singles player Sergey Yelnik (who, in spite of being 4-2 down in both the second and third sets of his match, was able to salvage an outstanding 2-6 6-4 6-4 victory) that Cambridge were able to go into the first round of doubles facing a deficit of 5-1 in rubbers. This round of matches proved to be far more successful for the light blues, however; although Cambridge’s second pairing of Wu and Jack Long-Martinez were disappointed to lose in a closely fought match against the Oxford third pairing, victories for the Light Blues’ number one pairing Prossor and Ashcroft and the third pairing of Cole and Yelnik (who pulled off an exceptional shock 8-6 deciding set win over Oxford’s formidable number one partnership) allowed Cambridge to reduce the deficit in rubbers to only three heading into the second day’s play.
That the momentum was with the Cambridge team was very much evident in the opening stages of day two of the encounter, with both Wu and Yelnik racing to victories over their singles opponents and leaving the fixture tantalisingly poised at 6-5 in rubbers. It was at this point, however, that Oxford were able to regain control of the fixture. In spite of Prossor’s efforts in securing a three-set victory in his match against the Oxford number one, further three-set defeats for Cole and Ashcroft and a loss for Ganendra in two very competitive sets gave Oxford a 9-6 lead. This lead was never relinquished; the dark blues were victorious in two of the subsequent three doubles matches, giving them an unassailable 11-7 advantage in rubbers.
Ultimately, therefore, the result was bitterly disappointing for the Light Blues. Almost every rubber was extremely closely contested, with the final outcome of the match being decided by the narrowest of margins; credit must be given, as a consequence, to the Oxford side, who demonstrated considerable resilience and ability in managing to convert enough evenly-poised matches into victories over the course of the weekend. The Cambridge squad must not, however, be disheartened. Indeed, the whole team’s application and level of tennis was excellent throughout the event, and the team will undoubtedly be eager to work on their game over the coming year and regain the Doherty Cup in 2017.