BUCS Individual Tennis Finals – Singles
Sunday 8th March 2015
Olivia Nicholls (5th seed) vs Lutfiana Budiharto (4th seed)
Score: 6-2 2-1 (ret)
Sunday’s finals day brought a big crowd to Loughborough’s Dan Maskell Centre, most of who had turned up to watch Olivia Nicholls representing Loughborough in her final against University of East London’s Lutfiana Budiharto.
Both Olivia and Lutfiana had to play their semi-finals in the morning previous to facing one another, taking on two very tough opponents meant that al four players in the semi-finals deserved their places within the final itself. Olivia was up against previous Great Britain Junior no.1 Jessica Ren from Durham University, but surprisingly to many that were watching, their match was cut short as Jessica retired early within the second set with an injury she was visibly suffering with throughout the tournament, meaning that Olivia was through to the final with a comfortable 6-2 2-1 win. Comparatively to this, Lutfiana had a long and gruelling three hour, three set match against no.1 seeded Mallory Cecil from Durham University 6-3 2-6 7-5 to get her into the final and facing our very own Olivia Nicholls.
The final began at 2pm the same afternoon, the balcony was full of enthusiastic supporters with at least 70% of the crowd being coated in the distinctive Loughborough purple and grey – Olivia’s supporters were out in force. Along with bringing a large crowd, the final had linesmen and an umpire, forming an extremely professional set up, creating a spectacle and intense atmosphere within the Dan Maskell Centre. As both players walked onto court, their names were announced by the chair umpire, vibrations were felt along the balcony as “Olivia Nicholls” was projected around the centre.
Olivia began the match winning the toss and opted to serve, and it was obvious from the onset after a handful of strong serves form the Loughborough player that Olivia was going to out power her opponent, taking the first game of the match rather steadily and looking confident with her play. The following few games went past swiftly, with Olivia out rallying Lutfiana from the back of the court and stepping in with any opportunity she was given to attack and finish the point. It did not take any time at all for Olivia to go 4-0 up in the first set, but as the play became more rapid, so did Lutfiana’s strategic cross court rallying as she began to increase her tactical play against Olivia making her move around the court and fight for every point. The game at 4-0 sparked a completely different form from Lutfiana as she began to break away from Olivia’s style of play, forcing Olivia to the back of the court opening up opportunities for Lutfiana to make more winners and close in on Olivia at the net. Lutfiana took her first game of the match, bringing the score to 4-1 Loughborough at change of ends.
However, Olivia did not let Lutfiana take this advantage for long, and after a few weak serves from her opponent Olivia took the opportunities she was awarded and took the ball on to secure another game lead, serving for the set at 5-1. The penultimate game was a long and enduring one between both players, with Lutfiana fighting to remain within the set and Olivia serving solidly to minimise the opportunities for Lutfiana to use her powerful and consistent forehand that could put greater pressure upon her lead. The tennis displayed within this game by both players was phenomenal, but Olivia had the edge over Lutfiana and had two set point opportunities at 40:15, claiming the first set on the second point advantage.
First set: 6-1 Olivia Nicholls
After an injury break from Lutfiana after the first set, play was a little slower going into the second set. Olivia’s rhythm had been interrupted by Lutfiana’s extended break from court and Lutfiana took advantage of this by pressurising Olivia at the back of the court, showing her high levels of consistency and out rallying her to take the first game of the second set. However, after a change of ends at 0-1, Olivia wasn’t going to let this win slip, and once again increased her intensity on court and flew away with the next couple of games after charging the net through her serve – volley tactical play to reclaim the second set advantage at 2-1.
It came as quite a shock to the spectators and Olivia when Lutfiana retired from the match with the score standing at 6-1 2-1, an unfortunate abrupt end to the BUCS Individual Final but the roar from the Loughborough corner was phenomenal and the smile on Olivia’s face said it all.
Olivia Nicholls is the BUCS Individual Tennis Gold Medalist and is the first English BUCS winner since 2006, she thoroughly deserves it!
BUCS Individual Tennis Finals – Doubles
Olivia Nicholls & Louise Holtum vs. Natasha Starling & Alexandra Walker
Score: 3-6 4-6
Going into her third match of the day, Olivia Nicholls was looking stronger than ever in her doubles final with her partner and team mate Louise Holtum. The Loughborough girls faced the no.1 pair from Bath University of whom have played together for the past couple of years and have shown their doubles finesse throughout the tournament.
The match began well for the Loughborough pair with Louise making some great interceptions at the net of which created some incredible rallies between all four players. Failing to maintain the momentum that the Bath girls brought to the court, Olivia and Louise lost the initial game of the first set giving the Bath pair the early advantage at 1-0.
On change of ends Olivia was serving to even the score, and although she had already been on court for an accumulative three hours you could not tell as she produced some outstanding serves that were followed up by charging net play that secured the Loughborough girls the game taking the score to 1-1. The abilities of both pairs was fairly even, and this produced fantastic tennis that was enjoyed by all watching and those playing on court. The next few following games went on serve, with the advantage remaining within the Bath half as the pair from Loughborough fought for the opportunity to attack. Play at the net was solid by both Loughborough and Bath but after a couple of weaker returns by the Loughborough girls, Alex and Natasha executed crucial winning shots that awarded them a three game lead of 5-2 at change of ends. Serving to remain in the set, Louise Holtum performed some fast paced serves that were weakly returned by the Bath pair, of which Olivia intercepted and attacked from the net awarding them the game and taking the score to 5-3 Bath, they were closing in on the advantage. However, the come back was shortly lived as the Bath pair increased momentum and with a strong service game won the first set 6-3.
First Set: 6-3 Bath University
The opening to the second set was much more in the Loughborough girls’ favour. Once again Olivia’s serving was powerful and pressurising upon the Bath pair, and her continued serve and volley tactic was benefiting the girls’ momentum putting them into the attack and Bath on the defence. Loughborough take the first game of the second set : 1-0.
With the advantage in the Loughborough half the next few games followed the same pattern as the first set with the advantage going with serve. Loughborough held the game advantage until they reached 4-3, at which the Bath pair altered their style of play and began to increase their levels of consistency rather than focusing upon their opportunities to attack the Loughborough pair. The game at 4-4 consisted of long and continuous rallies between the four players of which created a nervous and tense atmosphere amongst spectators and the players themselves. The dreaded ‘sudden death deuce’ determined the fate of who would take the 5-4 advantage at the final change of ends in this gruelling match, and it was the luck of the net for the Bath pair as a volley by Alexandra hit the tape and dropped onto the Loughborough side, winning them the point, the game, and the ultimate advantage.
At the final change of ends, Bath’s Alexandra took her position to serve for the match, the win, and ultimately the Gold medal. The Bath pair seemed to not be too phased by the pressure, and faultless serving by Alex forced Olivia and Louise to produce weak returns that the Bath girls took advantage upon at the net and allowed them to close the match with the score of 6-3 6-4 – congratulations to Alexandra and Natasha from Bath University, a well deserved win!
Olivia Nicholls and Louise Holtum were awarded as the BUCS Individual Doubles Silver Medalists, meaning that Olivia claimed two medals from the weekend!
Facing the same pair tomorrow in the BUCS Championship Cup Semi – Final away at Bath University, the Loughborough girls hope that they can render their loss with their second chance at a victory of the girls. Good luck to Loughborough Tennis Women’s 1s tomorrow, do let us know how you get on.
By Imogen Harry