Loughborough Women’s 1s vs Durham University 1s
The suspense leading up to Tennis D-day was felt by all in Loughborough tennis. Durham’s 1st team was sharing the top spot with our women’s 1st team in the BUCS premiership league going into the day, meaning that this match was even more crucial than just the inter university rivalry.
On entering the tennis centre you could hear the sheer amount of support from the hallway, with the teams chanting and cheering at the top of their lungs, yet this was before the matches had even begun, this we knew was going to be a big head to head. The team for the day was Olivia Nichols, Louise Holtum, Satoku Haru and Emily Rodbourne, all of which have had a great start to the season with three consecutive wins over Leeds Metropolitan, Nottingham, and Loughborough 2’s. The structure of the matches are that all play singles, and then a doubles each, meaning that all players were in for a long day of tennis. The afternoon started with singles from all four ladies and everything began positively for Loughborough with each court winning their first game in the opening set.
Louise Holtum, Loughborough’s number two for the day was up against a very consistent Durham opposition of whom had a very different game play to Louise causing her a little trouble in the opening set. Louise didn’t let the Durham player get away easily however, as she made every game close using her backhand to out power her. Louise wasn’t enjoying the slice based play of the Durham opponent and this showed with Louise losing the match, beginning the afternoon with a 1-0 loss to Durham.
Olivia Nichols came up against a very strong opponent from Durham University, 24 year old Mallory Cecil who has previously been on the ITF circuit, being in the top 400 when she was 19. However, this did not seem to phase Olivia, of whom paced through the first set going 3-0 up after only twenty minutes of play, putting Durham on the back foot with Olivia two breaks in front. However, it didn’t take long for the Durham player to find her ground and she fought back to 6-6, leading to a first set tiebreak for both players creating a tense atmosphere within the Dan Maskell centre. It was an extremely close tie-break with both players playing their best tennis of the match so far, but Cecil picked up her performance and took the tie-break from Olivia 7-3. Losing the tie-break did not hinder Olivia’s confidence as she powered through the second set, making some incredible winners past the Durham no.1 with which the supporters reacted to enthusiastically – drumming on the balcony and stamping their feet to create an echo around the tennis centre when Olivia claimed the second set with a score of 6-4.
Emily Rodbourne was up against a well known Durham player – Izzy Earnshaw. Emily had a strong start, taking the first set in no time atall, showing her strength through her powerful play in her groundstrokes and predominantly her serve. The second set changed everything for Emily as she took a fall – hurting her ankle and causing her to lose confidence in her forehand and although she didn’t give up she lost the second set 6-3, taking her into a third set against the Durham no.4.
Satoku Haru had a tough start against Jessica Ren from Durham University, of whom has recently been selected to compete for Great Britain in the BNP in France later this year, losing a tight first set but making Ren fight for every point. The second set saw Haru break through and by making some crucial shots she went 5-4 up to put her serving for the set. Ren however didn’t hold back, holding solid ground- stroke baseline rallies against Haru causing her to become defensive allowing Ren more opportunities to attack. The score tightened and the tables turned with Ren breaking Haru to go 6-5 up and taking the set after a solid game of serving to win the match 6-3, 7-5. After the match I congratulated Satoku for her incredible fight and unfortunate loss, and asked her how she felt the match went for her, “Overall I played well, but I didn’t take the opportunities I felt that I got given, she served well at crucial points and this was tough for me. The atmosphere created by supporters was amazing, I wish it was like this every week”.
With both balconies full of purple and two matches going into a third set the atmosphere was electric, keeping the support high for the girls that remained battling on court for Loughborough – Emily and Olivia.
Going into the third set Emily looked like she was struggling with her ankle of which she injured in the second set, taking a few pauses after points to recover. However, her ground – strokes were immaculate, forcing her opponent into long rallies, dragging out the points. Unfortunately her ankle seemed to get the better of Emily and she lost the third set 6-0. Meanwhile, Olivia was still on court battling through the third set against the Durham no.1. They had been on court for two hours and were gradually showing that they were tired through a few more errors being made from both players. The intensity didn’t slip however, with the rallies remaining lengthy and Olivia making the American fight for every point she got. Unfortunately it wasn’t a day of winning for Loughborough women’s tennis as Olivia lost the third set 6-0, but the final score really didn’t highlight the incredible battle between both players – an example of flawless tennis.
After the intensity of their singles matches they knew that this wouldn’t change for the doubles as Satoku and Louise stepped onto court for their doubles against Jessica Ren and Izzy Earnshaw from Durham. The match started well, with Louise and Satoku taking the lead, looking strong and enjoying the intensity of play, however the game had to be interrupted when the clock stroke 7pm as the court allowance had come to an end, giving Durham the win automatically.
It was a tough day for Loughborough tennis, playing their biggest rivals in the BUCS league, but it was fought hard by all players, making it a very entertaining afternoon of tennis and although they lost 12-0 in rubbers, the score does not give the ladies justice for how well they all played – well done girls, and good luck for next week.