Cambridge took on Essex, and an ex-cantab Blue, in a thrilling set of matches amid fine weather, ROB LEGG reports.
CULTC 7 – 5 Essex LTA
The men’s tennis blues opened their summer campaign and Varsity build up with a well-earned win in glorious conditions against an experienced Essex team featuring ‘08-‘09 Blues captain, John Western.
With the rain having seen to CULTC’s fixture list thus far this term, a scorching Sunday allowed for the start of their grass court season. Starting at #6, Fred Floether (Churchill) faced Harry Randle, a player capable of both ridiculous winners and errors. There proved too many of the former however, and Floether’s defensive style could not withstand the barrage, going down 7-5 6-4.
At #5, Kiwi fresher Ryan Ammar (Corpus) played a grass court specialist in Paul Gardiner. Whilst Timaru’s finest arguably had the better of the baseline exchanges with some muscular hitting, Gardiner’s heavier serve and effective net play allowed him to take more of his opportunities, winning 6-3 6-4.
Playing at #4, Rob Legg (Downing) got off to a slow start against Peter French, before recovering with some pacey serves, more aggressive returning and a flurry of passing shots in the latter stages of the first set. He won the first set carried his momentum into the second and prevailed 7-5 6-4.
At #3, Sven Sylvester (Trinity) had a tough time against Jack Stammers. With his artillery-like serve not finding its usual accuracy, he was unable to dominate enough of the baseline exchanges, and Stammers’s clinical point construction was too much to handle, with Stammers winning 7-5 7-5.
At #2, Jamie Muirhead (Fitz) had the challenge of facing John Western, captain of the victorious 2008-09 Blues team. With both players serve-volleying to good effect, points were won and lost at a rapid rate. Yet Muirhead’s meatier hitting allowed him to overcome Western’s extraordinary feel, winning 7-6(3) 7-5.
At #1, captain Cameron Johnston (Christ’s) played Luke Spooner in a barnburner of a tie. Both players showed plenty of aggression, fire and flair, but Spooner’s all-court game had too many weapons, and he took the match 2-6 7-6 10-7.
At 4-2 down after the singles, CULTC needed to show some doubles prowess, and with Constantine Markides (Wolfson) and Charlie Cohen (St Catz) joining the fray, they did just that.
In the first round, CULTC took a clean sweep, as Johnston/Legg served and returned with venom in their 7-5 6-2 win over Spooner/Gardiner, whilst Markides/Cohen played the classiest doubles Fenner’s has seen all year, winning 6-2 6-4 against Western/Stammers. On the final court, Muirhead/Sylvester played brutal doubles, dominating both the net and baseline in a crushing 7-6 (8) 6-1 win over French/Randle.
And in the final round, the Blues continued to impress, with Muirhead/Sylvester routing Spooner/Gardiner 7-6(5) 6-2, and Markides/Cohen held their nerve in a 6-4 6-7(5) 10-6 victory against French/Randle. Johnston/Legg were unable to complete the doubles whitewash, as, whilst they won the first set 6-4, missed opportunities allowed Western/Stammers to sneak back into the match in the second set (7-5) and edge the deciding tiebreak 10-8.
This win marks the start of what hopes to be a successful campaign, with plenty of accomplished performances, particularly in the doubles, and captain Johnston very pleased for everyone to “have found their feet on the grass”. The Blues will need to press on from here though in next week’s match as a much sterner test awaits in the form of the International Club of Great Britain.