Dan Jacobson reports on the King’s 4-3 victory against UCL at the Tennis Varsity
Following a day of close calls, comebacks, and Katie Melua, Kings College London emerged victorious in the Varsity 2018 Tennis event, with a 4-3 victory at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, in the closest encounter between the two sides since the sport was introduced in 2016.
With the series history level at 1-1, UCL were marginal favourites to take victory, owing to their higher positions in the BUCS leagues, though were following a 6-1 trouncing in last year’s event.
The event began with the men’s and women’s first-seed singles, which set the score level at 1-1. The powerful service game of KCL’s Nick Katzaros proved too much for Nikita Jesaibegjans, who suffered from some late breaks to finalise the score at 3-6 3-6.
On the neighbouring Court 3, UCL women’s first seed Ioana Buzelan began the game strong, taking the first set 6-0 from Kings’ Allie Yanko, and, whilst the pressure may have accounted for her four lost match points throughout the second set, following a second set tie-break, she took the game for UCL 6-0 7-6 (7-3) with a fantastic forehand winner down the line.
The tension was palpable as the players took to the court for the men’s and women’s doubles matches. In the women’s doubles, Maria Alexandroff and Laura Sahyoun of Kings came back from 3-2 to take the first set from UCL’s Katy Darke and Josie Hogh and, with an early break in the second set, secured the 4-6 4-6 victory for Kings.
Meanwhile, the men’s doubles provided the most drama of the event, with the first set won via tie-break for UCL, with Prompt Udomdech and Ollie Coates coming back from 0-4 down to win the tie-break 9-7. Following a 2-6 second set win for Hassan Morad and Benjamin Zuckerman of Kings, the match went to an international tie breaker, which was won 10-7 for UCL, resulting in a 7-6 (9-7) 2-6 10-7 score line, and sending the game to 2-2.
The drama did not let up for the second-seed singles games. The women’s match, contested by Daria Postnikova of UCL and Aurelie Zoetelief-Tromp of Kings, risked going to three sets, following Postnikova’s 7-6 (7-5) first set victory, and a hotly contested 5-5 in the first set. However, some phenomenal play by Postnikova nudged UCL to a 7-6 (7-5) 7-5 victory, placing them in a strong 3-2 lead.
With victory just one game away, it came to Aeron Evans who, after falling back 1-5 in the first set, clawed bravely back to a first set tie-break, which unfortunately went 3-7 in favour of Kings’ William Archer. With both players physically challenged by the game, and a nail-biting break back by Arthur at 4-4, the match eventually resulted in a 6-7 (3-7) 5-7 victory for Kings, bringing the overall score to 3-3, and the mixed doubles to decide the match.
UCL’s mixed doubles pair began strong, with Jennifer Hadjieva and Pedro Pereira bringing the first set to a tie-break which, unfortunately, fell 8-10 in favour of Eva Giannopoulou and Benjamin Zuckerman of Kings. Following a valiant effort by both players, the match culminated with an ace by Zuckerman, ending the game at 6-7 (8-10) 3-6, and an overall 4-3 victory, in favour of Kings.
As UCL commiserated, there were jubilant celebrations for Kings. “I feel great” said Hebe and Charlotte, who provided some fantastic commentary for KCL Radio. Hebe stated that she had “not followed Varsity before, but there is a great vibe.”
Indeed, Kings ensured that their support did not go unnoticed, with supporters sporting red t-shirts and face paint, along with a series of chants courtesy of 1st Team Captain, known only elusively as ‘Jimmy’. This included a novel rendition of ‘Nine Million Bicycles’ by soul songstress Katie Melua.
Of course, there were commiserations for UCL, who should remain proud of the phenomenal, entertaining tennis they played. “I think they’re going to be quite upset” said Simon Musset, the UCL Tennis Coach, though he did mention that, in the spirit of Varsity, “there’ll be a great party afterwards”.