|July 1, 2010|
|University of Cambridge Women’s 1st||18||Win|
|Oxford University Women’s 1st||3||Loss|
The Women’s Varsity Squad was (*denotes Blue):
Beth Ashbridge (Clare)* [Captain]
Victoria Watson (Jesus)* [Secretary]
Alice Barnes (Lucy Cavendish)*
Laura Morrill (Murray Edwards)*
Erica Ross (Caius)*
Corina Balaban (Homerton)*
Claire Bush (St John’s)
Bronwen Derry (Pembroke)
Setting the crowd alight Blue
By Victoria Watson
For the neutral (if such a person existed among a crowd polarised according to preference for a particular shade of blue) 2010 may have been a disappointment.
Unlike the previous two years’ women’s tennis Varsity matches, the twenty-one match fixture was not left tantalisingly unresolved going into the final round of three doubles matches. Instead, the Cambridge girls ended Day Two of three 12-3 up, their mission accomplished and the silverware in the bag, with six doubles matches left to play. Resisting the temptation to showcase exhibition tennis of Mansour Bahrami proportions on Day Three, the Light Blues simply continued their demolition, achieving a 6-0 whitewash and thus emerging emphatic 18-3 victors overall.
As for the nature of the victory, fear of complacency quelled our excitement about our enviable position at the end of Day One. Today saw the contestation of the so-called ‘off’ singles matches meaning that the players ranked Number One played the opposition’s Number Two, Number Three played Number Four and Number Five played Number Six. Theoretically speaking, therefore, the day should have ended 3-3. It didn’t. Cambridge were afforded the opportunity to take the lead as our numbers one, three and five played first. With Henry Newbolt’s command, ‘Play up, play up and play the game!’ still reverberating in their ears from the team-talk, Victoria Watson (Jesus – Captain), Laura Morrill (Murray Edwards – Secretary) and Emma Kudzin (Newnham) set the tone for the subsequent Light Blue rampage.
All three matches were relatively brief, one-sided affairs with the immense heat incentivising clinical finishing. Superior consistency on Cambridge’s part was telling as the monotonous drills which in the previous week generated tedium demonstrated their utility in the competitive environment. Fresher Emma Kudzin (No 5) stormed the first set 6-0 and neutralised a comeback to take the second 6-3 through simply keeping calm and carrying on. Laura Morrill (No 1) and Victoria Watson (No 3) both prevailed 6-1 6-1.
It was now Oxford’s opportunity to level the scores in the round of singles geared to their advantage. The advantage associated with being placed higher up your team’s rankings than your opponent is in theirs, however, is only relevant if the two teams are of a similar standard. That this was not the case soon became clear as Cambridge’s numbers Four and Six upset proceedings by beating Oxford’s numbers Three and Five respectively. For second-time Blue, Corina Balaban (Homerton – No 6), this represented a magnificent performance as she defeated an opponent who last year beat her rather easily. This time there was something different about the popular young Romanian. A good kind of different which may be the result of her having fully acclimatised to this foreign land. Whatever it was, her tennis benefited as, oozing self-assurance, hitting serves endowed with an extra few miles per hour and exhibiting a newfound patience in her groundstrokes, she shocked her opponent into unexpected submission 6-4 6-3 to the cheers of the Light Blue brigade.
Silvia Guglielmi’s (Homerton – No 4) victory never looked in doubt. In an uncharacteristically nerveless performance from a Varsity novice, the Italian played with the aggression which has overcome many an adversary in the BUCS leagues to defeat Oxford’s Welsh Number Three 6-3 6-3. Think Bergamasco versus Shane Williams. Unfortunately, Cambridge’s Number Two Alex McGoodwin (Lucy Cavendish) could not complete the clean sweep for the Light Blues but she fought valiantly against a strong Oxford Number One.
Day Two did not begin promisingly as Monday’s sunny skies were replaced with rainclouds. The grass at the NTC was sodden, the start time delayed and play restricted to fewer courts. Today commenced with the ‘on’ singles whereby each player played their opposite number. Emma Kudzin and Victoria Watson were first out, with the former clinching the first set 7-5 before relinquishing a second set lead of 5-1 to eventually prevail 6-4 in a common scenario of simultaneous tension and relaxation when one player is near to victory. Captain Watson produced another efficient performance, grinding down the unpredictable Oxford Number Three in terrier-like fashion. It was now the turn of Laura Morrill and Corina Balaban to add to Oxford’s anguish.
Laura Morrill, put simply, was brilliant. Against an on form opponent whom she had only defeated in three sets the previous year, she raised her game and won 6-2 6-4 in front of a proud Morrill fan club encompassing three generations. Exhibiting the confidence gained from a year of exceptional performances in BUCS, she hit a dazzling array of winners which complemented a secure grass-court foundation of a strong serve and consistency from the baseline. Meanwhile, Corina Balaban was involved in another close match, this time against the Oxford Number 6. Succumbing to her opponent’s superior weight of shot in the first set, she then bravely fought back to level the match at a set all. Unfortunately, she was always playing catch-up in the third set, as, aided by bouncy new balls, the Oxonian once again outhit the more gentile Light Blue. It was only really in the third set of Corry’s match that the prospect of winning the Varsity Match solely on singles occurred to us. Although this was now impossible following Corry’s loss, we knew that if we won the final two singles, we would only need one out of nine doubles to secure overall victory.
With this in mind, cheering for Silvia and Alex reached Sharapova-grunt levels and probably irritated fellow supporters as much as South African vuvuzelas have irked World Cup viewers. We persisted unashamed, willing Silvia on against extremely consistent play from her opponent which threatened to frustrate the usually calm Italian. The patience which she demonstrated to triumph must be applauded and Alex congratulated on producing a flawless performance against her tricky opponent to win 6-0, 6-1.
10-2 up, we needed just one of Day Two’s remaining three doubles to wrap up victory with an entire day’s play in hand. Little did we know at this point, but we would only lose one out of all nine doubles matches overall and so, really, we could take out pick. The message at the time, however, was that each pair must take responsibility for winning and not abrogate the duty to others. Two out of three pairs listened as Morrill/McGoodwin (No 1) and Kudzin/Guglielmi (No 2) both won, while Watson/Balaban (No 3) were so distracted mid second set upon hearing news of victory that they really went off the boil. One kept saying to the other, ‘We’ve won! We’ve won!’, to which the other responded, ‘I know’.
Arriving at the NTC the next day, we pledged to strive for as convincing a margin as we could collectively muster. 12-3 to 12-9 would be a disaster – that was last year’s score! Our motivation was furthered by the possibility of beating a record – the 17-4 victory in 2005. Our competitive drive kicked in: we meant business.
Kudzin/Guglielmi and Morrill/McGoodwin continued their harmonious partnerships winning in style while Watson/Balaban secured a much coveted doubles win with Corry only losing the score once and the Captain limiting her use of English idioms which do not translate into Romanian. That said, Corry was as cool as a cucumber and really had the bit between her teeth: 6-2 7-5 was just the ticket. For the final round, the decision was taken to give the reserves (Genevieve Gotla – Christ’s and Georgina Kilbourn – Trinity Hall – affectionately known as the GGs) an outing in return for their invaluable support and cheerleading. What a decision this turned out to be. After Kudzin/Guglielmi and Morrill/McGoodwin completed their respective doubles hatricks, leaving Laura, Emma and Silvia impressively unbeaten for the entire fixture, crowds gathered to witness a match which will go down in the annals of Varsity Match history.
For a dead rubber, this was very much alive as the GGs, unbeaten in the second team Varsity Match and known for combining success with a jolly good giggle, came up against Oxford’s German sisters. The GGs took the first set 6-3 before the Oxford pair came back to take the second set and take a 5-1 lead in the third. The GGs, however, did not back down and, with the aid of an extremely vocal Light Blue crowd, started to claw back the games. When the super duo miraculously won 9-7, we celebrated a remarkable victory to cap a brilliant three days. It was magical.
All that remained was to have a massive party. With the aid of the produce of popular sponsors Pol Roger, the post-match dinner and a night-club, we were provided with all the resources we needed for a celebration equivalent to our feelings of joy. What a celebration it was. What a few days to remember.