High Five

The Tennis Blues continue this year’s rout of the Scum.

rob legg tennis varsity match

CULTC Men’s Firsts dominated their Oxford counterparts in claiming a fifth consecutive win in the Barclay’s Varsity Tennis Match at the National Tennis Centre, Roehampton.

After a 5-5 draw mid-Lent, CULTC came into this year’s varsity match quietly confident that greater strength in depth, intense preparation and a superior team spirit would allow them to continue their hold of the Doherty Cup.

And so the former proved, as after the first two days of singles, Cambridge held a 7-5 lead, with 6 of those wins coming from a 100% record in matches against the Oxford 4, 5 and 6. But given that their Cambridge opposite numbers include no.5, Kirill Zavodov, former Russian U18 no.1, captain Rob Blythe was “unsurprised” by these results.

The killer blow in singles, however, came in the clash between Oxford no.1 Marc Baghdadi and Cambridge no.2, Rutger-Jan Lange. Lange was in inspired form, crushing his opponent physically and mentally after a gruelling first set, going on to win 7-5 6-2, despite members of OULTC claiming that “RJ [Lange] is definitely not a good enough player to beat Marc [Baghdadi]”. The result begs to differ.

Lange took particular satisfaction in this result, remarking “I
n my first year, I played no.6 and the Oxford team acted as though I was some kind of tag-on to the Cambridge team. Now I’ve just beaten their no.1”

On the last day came 3 rounds of doubles, with each pair playing each other pair and Cambridge needing only 4 of the 9 matches to claim victory.

The first round was a tense affair, with momentum shifting back and forth in all 3 matches. However, the greater preparation and greater vocal support showed in the results, as Cambridge went on to take all 3 matches, first Lange/Zavodov 7-6 7-6, then Western/Taubenslag 2-6 7-5 7-5 and finally Blythe/Johnston 4-6 6-3 7-5, Blythe finishing the match with an ace that had “more rip than Rip van Winkle”, to quote coach Nick Brown.

With the score 10-5, CULTC needing 1 win from 6, the second round of doubles was a formality with Blythe/Johnston decimating Oxford’s third pairing of Tristao/Dance 6-0 6-1 with a ruthless display of serving and returning. The result now known, the other pairs relaxed somewhat, allowing Oxford to claim their first two matches of the day.

The final round of doubles, however, took on a more serious tone, as it allowed both teams to experiment with pairings, predominantly for the following year. Of the two new Cambridge pairings, Lange/Jenkins were unable to find a way past Oxford’s second pair, losing 6-2 6-2 but Johnston/Legg showed good promise for the following year, ousting Oxford’s top pairing 6-2 6-7 10-8.

Thus the match finished 13-8 in Cambridge’s favour, taking their tally to 5 consecutive wins (in which Lange and Zavodov have played all 5), and 69 overall to Oxford’s 42. Vamos the Light Blue!

MVP: RJ Lange – Difficult to pick out over 3 days, but Lange’s win over Baghdadi, in particular the manner of it, on the first day set the tone for the whole Varsity and definitely subdued the Oxford crowd, and meant that OULTC were always chasing the match.

Team (from top left): Rob Legg (Downing), Cameron Johnston (Christ’s), John Western (Selwyn), Kenny Taubenslag (Emmanuel), Kirill Zavodov (Magdalene), Nick Jenkins (St. John’s, Secretary), Rob Blythe (Emmanuel, Captain), RJ Lange (King’s).