Henry Hill and Nicola Chew cover the action at a sell-out crowd down at the Lee Valley Hockey & Tennis Center in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
1st Men’s Singles: Simon Musset (UCL) bt Hassan Morad (KCL) 4-0 4-2
In truth the first rubber was never really much of a contest as UCL’s Simon Musset smooth dismissal of the KCL first team player would prove. The shortened set scoring system only made work quick for UCL’s 25 year old international man of mystery.
The first set saw Simon take quick control, breaking the flustered Morad twice in to race ahead. Musset’s deathly focus, and assortment of shot making allowed him to dominate his opponent throughout. But for a brief lapse of focus when serving at 3-0, Simon closed out the first set to love.
The second set started in much the same way, Musset breaking then holding to make it six games in a row. However, Morad began to find some rhythm, hitting some fine winners to take two games in succession. But Musset was undeterred, and calmly went about his business to close out the set 4-2..
Being the old man of the team, 10 games of tennis had clearly got to Musset, who promptly cramped up and required medical assistance, arguably the most dramatic point of the match..
UCL 1 – KCL 0
Ladies 1st Singles: Ioana Buzelan (UCL) bt Ekna Sharma (KCL) 5-3 5-3
The first lady to take the court was Ioana Buzelan, who won against her King’s adversary with a fairly comfortable 5-3, 5-3. It’s no wonder her nickname is the ‘Rocket from Romania’ – she’s quick on her feet, darting towards every ball, her strokes are deliberate and calculative.
Her first set was pretty smooth-sailing with forceful returns to her opponent’s strong serve and many down the line winners. Both were hitting the ball well, but it would be Buzelan who made make the crucial break and take the set 5-3.
Her second set was less of a cruise, with her opponent establishing a 2-0 lead. But Buzelan made a strong recovery, winning the first point of the third game with a neat ace that marked the start of her spectacular comeback – her opponent voicing her frustration after losing consecutive points. When Buzelan broke serve to bring the score back up to 3-3, her rival had clearly started to weaken under pressure. Buzelan coasted to victory after her opponent double faulted on the match point.
UCL 2 – KCL 0
2nd Men’s Singles: Olly Coates (UCL) bt Tom Gill (KCL) 5-3 4-2
The second men’s singles proved to be a much tougher affair for UCL. In what was a battle of big serves and hard hitting, UCL’s poster boy Olly Coates eventually emerged victories after two hard fought sets.
Recovering from his training camp at Fabric the night before, Coates started slowly, relying on his big serve to keep him in the match. Gill was no pushover, his big left-handed forehand and propensity to hit massive second serve aces kept Coates on his toes. The tennis wasn’t exactly scintillating, but Coates eventually began to find his feet, rattling off an impressive number of returns to finally break Tom’s serve and take the set 5-3.
In the second set Coates began to show his class. Producing a mixture of hard hitting and intelligent tennis, Coates broke serve and didn’t look back. Although Gill continued with some fine shot making, Coates tennis was as unflappable as each finely groomed hair on his head, and he closed out the second set 4-2.
UCL 3 – KCL 0 (ct: championship tiebreak)
Ladies 2nd Singles: Aurélie Tromp (KCL) bt Griffin Daly (UCL) 3-5 4-2 10-8(ct)
The second women’s singles was a demanding, gruelling and suspenseful affair. UCL’s Griffin Daly put up a valiant and admirable fight in a three-setter that ended in a very close tiebreak victory for Kings.
Daly’s style is characterised by grace and languidness, but also with a strength that helped her create a 3-0 lead in the first set. Unfortunately, Daly suffered a series of double faults, and the set evened out to 3-3. However, her opponent would also suffer, double faulting throughout her next service game. This left Daly to serve for the set with a 5-3 win.
The second ended 4-2 to Tromp, despite a sequence of strong serves and cross court winners by Daly. It was a series of tense rallies – a battle of consistency and deliberation, with each side trying to wear the other down. Daly was showing signs of anxiousness, berating her boyfriend for texting during a crucial point much to his despair.. Poor Zach.
The match eventually ended with a tight point-by-point tiebreak. Despite Daly taking a 7-5 lead, Tromp fought back, and took home the victory 10-8 with a huge winner down the line.
UCL 3 – KCL 1
Women’s Doubles: Daria Postnikova & Alice Scemama (UCL) bt Karen Borges & Chalini Lankage (KCL) 4-0 4-0
Truth be told, the women’s doubles was hardly a contest, as Postnikova and Scemama quickly dismantled their opponents. UCL’s little and large combination quietly went about their business, not allowing Kings a single game throughout.
Clearly enjoying themselves, the elegant Postnikova and gleeful Scemama played simple doubles as they pressurised the KCL serve, and out muscled their sporting opposition across the court. But for a few wayward volley’s from Scemama’s racket, the match was quickly over, UCL breaking in the final game to seal victory and take an unassailable 4-1 series in the varsity series.
The crowd was in good spirits, women’s singles player Griffin Daly remarking the event was “as good as Wimbledon, just cheaper.” Although the tennis was entertaining, perhaps Daly was getting a touch too carried away with UCL’s success..
UCL 4 – KCL 1
Mixed Doubles: Maria Baidoukov & Eduardo Ascoli (KCL) bt Fran Heale & Laurence Cannings (UCL) 4-2 5-4 (7)
The mixed doubles turned out to be one of the more enjoyable matches of the evening, as KCL emerged victorious in a well fought rubber. After 4 hours of tennis, and with UCL having sealed victory, the crowd had relaxed and were cheering on the two pairs throughout.
Kings raced into a 3-0 lead, playing consistent tennis to control the opening set. It was a match Kings had evidently targeted, as both players were strong across the court. However, Heale would be the catalyst to spark a mini revival, spurring on the pair to take 2 games in a row. It would prove to be too little to late, as Kings served out the first set to take it 4-2.
The clearly flustered Canning’s was giving the umpire evil eyes with every line-call, and began to channel his aggression into some huge serves and volleys. The second set was a tight contest, with neither pair showing particular signs of breaking. The set would go to a tie-break, and despite the UCL crowds best efforts to cheer the ‘beast’ Cannings and Heale home, Kings eventually sealed a mini-break and the set and the match 4-2 5-4.
UCL 4 – KCL 2
Men’s Doubles: Tom Gill & Shaakir Sawar (KCL) bt Pedro Pereira & Sam Viravong (UCL) 5-3 4-5(9) 12-10(ct)
The men’s doubles was the last match to remain on the court, with Pereira and Viravong from UCL locked in an intense battle with their King’s adversaries that painted a highly-charged, boisterous atmosphere.
After a 5-3 loss in the first set, the UCL boys made a strong comeback with Pereira delivering a series of whopping serves and showing wonderful hands at the net. It was a fast-paced match packed with a string of swift rallies comprising of rapid volleys, big winners and powerful smashes. Viravong, standing in last minute, was perhaps lacking in match fitness against the well adept opponents.
A little skirmish ensued during the second set tiebreak when the umpire controversially called Sawar’s cross court shot to the baseline out. This caused King’s to challenge the call, resulting in a heated confrontation which drew in the spectators from both parties, and the point eventually being replayed. Nevertheless, UCL won the tiebreak with a swift cross court winner by Viravong, who was being motivated by chants of “toilet brush head” from the stand..
The third set tiebreak was no less nerve-wracking than that of the second, and as the last match in play, it consumed all the spectators lining the gallery. In a fiery spectacle, Gill delivered a forceful unreturnable serve to take the tiebreak and the match 12-10. Although the result was in vain, the contest was the highlight of the day.
UCL 4 – KCL 3 *UCL win the contest
Featured image credit: Nicola Chew