Week 61: InterUniversity Real Tennis Tournament

My work finished the week on a high note, as I managed to get my program working with the model that I was using, so I’ve done enough such that I’m at a good place to try and get some decent work done while I’m away over the new year’s break. Interspersed with my work programme this week, was a bit of tennis practice, trying to tune up for the weekend’s competition.

On Monday evening, I headed out to the West Road Concert Hall with Jacqueline. She was performing in a concert by CUSO, one of the student orchestras in Cambridge. I had offered to Steward, which tonight meant handing out tickets to the patrons. Krittika had come along as well, she was here for her boyfriend Kevin, who was playing percussion in the concert. She was stewarding for the first time, and was on the door checking tickets. I also was charged with operating the lights for the concert. The programme was Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. It was probably a little ambitious for the quality of the musicians, as there were times where it appeared to fall apart a little, but most of them made it work.

Jacqueline and I also spent Tuesday evening with Krittika and Kevin, they invited us over for home-made Mexican food, followed by heading out to a nearby pub for a pub quiz. It was easier than the noxiously difficult Mill quiz, but there were still some sections we struggled with. All of the answers were supposed to contain the letters “ART” in sequence. My favourite was the cycling round, were I got half of the questions after the quizmaster had said only a few words. Overall, we came a respectable fourth, out of more than twice as many teams. We had to forfeit the bonus round, though, as Krittika had accidently glimpsed the answer on the quiz-master’s sheet.

The first day of the InterUniversity Real Tennis Cup was Thursday. Teams from Exeter, Bristol, Durham, Newcastle and Middlesex Universities had journeyed to Cambridge for an intensive weekend of Real Tennis across both Cambridge courts and Newmarket. There were two competitions being run simultaneously: the InterUniversity Cup and the Handicap Singles Cup. The first match for me was the preliminary round of the InterUniversity Cup. I was in the Cambridge Third team, alongside Krittika. Together, we would each play one singles match against another team, followed by a doubles tie. The team that won the most matches would proceed to the next round.

We were scheduled to start at 9 pm in a fixture against the Exeter Fourth team. We were playing on the Green Court, as the Blue Court was being used for a National League fixture. However, as a few of the matches before us had gone longer than expected, it wasn’t until after 9:30 pm that we actually started. I went on court first, against a guy called Sam. All InterUniversity Cup matches were played off level, meaning that there could be some very one-sided matches. I was able to pull together my serve well, which meant I ended up cruising to an 8-0 victory. Krittika’s singles was next against another guy called Alex. Despite the strong cheering from the visitors, Krittika fought hard, extending to a strong lead. However, mid-match, the lights on the court went out, and wouldn’t turn back on. There was a curfew on the lights, which meant we had to move mid-game to the the other, now free, court. The move disrupted Krittika’s rhythm a bit, and her opponent fought his way back into the game. Nevertheless, Krittika held her nerve and pulled through for an 8-6 victory. Our progression now assured, the pressure was off for the doubles fixture, which was a straightforward 8-5 victory that finished at half past eleven. We had now qualified into the Round of 16.

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On Friday morning, we were scheduled to play our second round match against the Cambridge First team. These were some of the top players in Cambridge, and the best in the tournament; we didn’t stand a chance. Our match was scheduled at Newmarket, a half hour drive away from Cambridge. We met at the tennis club in the morning, and were driven over by one of our Cambridge opponents. When we arrived, we discovered that the first four players in the group 1 of the Handicap Singles were running hopelessly overtime. The group of four was supposed to play a round-robin of sets to 5 games, but one of them didn’t show up, and so they were playing sets to 8 games instead. But then he later showed up, and so the rest of the games also had to be played to 8 games, which meant that it wasn’t until 90 minutes after the scheduled start that we actually got on court.

The tournament we were playing meant that each match started level, and the Cambridge first team was vastly superior in skill to us. We each scored a few points here and there, but each of the games ended in an 8-0 drubbing. The Cambridge First team would go on to win the Cup overall, and we learnt a lot from our matches.

Because we were running overtime, one of the Pros from Cambridge had to drive out to Newmarket to bring us back in time for Krittika to play her group games. We arrived back with time to spare, but not a lot. She went on court relatively soon after. The Handicap Singles Cup is, naturally, a handicapped tournament, which means that in theory most games should have an even chance of both sides winning. However, to mitigate the effect of rapidly improving new players, an upper limit to the handicap was imposed. This disadvantaged Krittika against the other players in her group. In the end, though she fought hard, fatigue got the better of her, and she didn’t progress on to the next round.

Having scored Krittika’s matches, I headed home to freshen and suit up. Tonight, we were heading to Fitzwilliam College for a formal hall. I had never been to Fitzwilliam at all before, so I was keen to get Andrea to take us along. Jacqueline and I rode over, meeting Annalise, Andrea, Matt, Emma and others at the porter’s lodge. Andrea briefly showed us around her college before heading to the MCR. The Fitzwilliam MCR feels uniquely like somebody’s living room, but was full of people milling about with gin and tonics. Leaving our coats there, we headed over to the main hall. The Fitzwilliam dining hall is relatively modern, and almost completely cubic in shape. The food was decent for Cambridge, with a delicious chocolate cake for desert.

The exciting moment of the dinner came after the fellows had left, leaving just the students behind. Firstly, two people got sung their happy birthdays, with joining in from much of the room. But, most importantly, at the table next to us, someone got a guitar from somewhere and started singing a love song to his partner, who was sat next to him. People in the hall began to quieten down. As he finished his song, and after a brief hug, he got out of his chair and onto his knee and proposed to her; in the middle of the formal hall. She accepted, and there was much cheering from the hall. It was really unexpected but a memorable way to sign off my experience at Fitzwilliam College.

After dinner, we headed back to the MCR and read through the MCR wager book; a logbook of wagers made (often while drunk) by people in the MCR including how it shall be adjudicated, and what the stakes shall be. It was mostly written in exaggerated formal prose, which made it fun to read. I turned in early, however, because I had more tennis the following day.

On Saturday, it was time for my group stage games in the Handicap Singles Cup. There were three others in my group; it was played in a round-robin format. The first match began between Hannah from Bristol and Jessy from Exeter, but was abandoned after a few points as Hannah felt uncomfortably sick and wouldn’t continue for the rest of the day. Her withdrawal made it a group of three, which meant the matches would now be played to 8 games instead of 5. The next game was between Jessy and Paul from Newcastle, and was characterised by both players getting frustrated by missing shots. In the end, Paul won 8-4.

My first group game was against Jessy. She is probably a better player than I was, but definitely fatigued towards the end. I tried to keep up as best I could, but found myself 5-7 down, after which I tried to refocus, and won the last three games to take the match 8-7. That meant that my match against Paul would decide the group; the winner to go through. I started off strong, stretching out to a 4-1 lead, but he eventually got the hang of my serves, and brought it back to 5-4. Finally, I brought it home strong, to finish 8-5. He hit the ball hard, and got frustrated when it missed, which I tried to take advantage of.

Having now won my group, I had qualified for the knock-out stage. The first knock-out match was later that afternoon against Jamie from Bristol. Jamie was a left-hander with a devilish serve that I couldn’t do much about, and I ended up losing 1-6. Nevertheless, I was content with my result; I had won my group and made it through to the second stage in both competitions. I headed home to rest and recuperate.

That night, I headed out with Jacqueline to the West Road Concert Hall for Jacqueline’s second concert of the week. Once again, I offered to steward, which again meant operating the lights before and after the concert. This concert was the Cambridge University Sinfonia, one of the better of the student orchestras, and the conductor, Toby, was one of the better of the student conductors. They played the Overture from Schumann’s Faust, but the highlight was the performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3. They finished off with Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5, which they performed decently well. It was certainly one of the more polished Cambridge University musical performances.

On Sunday, it was time to rest up from the tennis tournament. Jacqueline and I went out to buy some ingredients to make Christmas Puddings, and by the time we had tidied up and prepared the first set of ingredients, we had Joanna, Danny and Lewis over for a quick Dungeons and Dragons session. Finally, we headed out to Kevin’s place for dinner and to see the film Zootopia, which forms a large part of his PhD. Annika and Edyth came as well; hence there was much commentary on the themes of the film in the hour that followed.


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