It was my first week back in Cambridge after nearly a month away in Florence. The bad news was that at the end of my trip away, my computer had stopped working. I took it along to a computer repair shop in Cambridge, but they seemed to think it was unfixable, at least without paying a hefty fee to replace several key components. My only solution was therefore to swallow my pride and get a new computer. I did a bit of research, and settled on a model that I thought would be suitable, and had to wait for it to arrive. From there, I started the lengthy process of downloading my backup from the cloud to start restoring all of my files. It was a slow and often frustrating process, dependent on having a stable and reliable internet connection.
In the meantime, life in the new year in Cambridge was really kicking off. One of my first tasks was to do my regular check-in at college to confirm that I was still studying. I also went to a careers service event out at the West Cambridge, my mind now starting to think about what comes next.
The main event of the week came on Saturday. It was shaping up to be a rather intensive month of real tennis; the varsity matches were scheduled for the end of the month, with lots of training and playoffs before that point. The first step on that journey was a fundraising tournament; the Giraffe Club Cup. We were playing a handicap doubles tournament with 16 pairs spread across two divisions, followed by a wine reception and exhibition match and then a black tie dinner. Some of the competitors were tennis fans from around the country, others were local tennis players who wanted to support the students, and the rest were filled in by the students themselves, so we were able to mingle with the potential donors.
I was playing in the second division, and my doubles partner was Andrew, a promising junior player who is now studying his A-levels. We played in the morning group of four pairs. We narrowly won our first match 6/5, as we were still getting used to the way each other was playing. By the end we were just playing consistent tennis, and that was enough to push us over the line. In the second match against the club fixtures secretary, I was making too many mistakes on the volley, and we lost 3/6. Finally, in the last match of the group stage we played against the women’s varsity first and second seed. Both of them like to volley, but we were able to force them into enough volleying errors to win 6/5. We had done enough to go through to the semi finals as the group winners.
The afternoon session saw Jacqueline, Krittika and Kevin all in action, albeit all in different pairings. Jacqueline was playing with Rosie, an excitable basketball player who would swing hard at everything. Kevin was with a recent alumni who was back on court for the first time since she played as a student, and she took some time to get back into the groove of the game. Finally, Krittika was playing with another one of the students. Many of their matches went back and forth, but ultimately Jacqueline and Rosie came out as group winners, even after losing their match against the husband and wife pair of Jeremy and Linda.
In the semi finals, Andrew and I played Jeremy and Linda. We had watched their match against Jacqueline and Rosie carefully, noting that although they served well, their coverage of the court was not as strong. We then were able to use our youth to our advantage ultimately winning the match easily 6/1, putting us through to the final. In the other semi final, Jacqueline and Rosie received a huge handicap from their opponents, who were only permitted one serve instead of the usual two, couldn’t hit certain parts of the court and could only lose two points before losing each game. Their tactic of smack it as hard as possible and wait for some racket errors worked, pitting them against us in the final.
Come the final, we also had to give Jacqueline and Rosie a similarly difficult handicap difference. It was very stressful, knowing that every slight mistake would be hugely costly. We both focused on playing consistent tennis, which fortunately Andrew was quite adept at. While there were some stressful moments, we ultimately did enough and didn’t make too many errors, winning the match 6/3. Jacqueline and Rosie each won a bottle of wine for being runners-up so they weren’t too disappointed. Jacqueline headed off to go help run the Gates Lunar New Year party, while I stayed behind to watch and report on the Exhibition match between the two most recent top seeds for the Cambridge Varsity team. It was an exciting affair between the two of them, but towards the end, they started showboating a little to thrill the crowd.
I then headed off to join the Lunar New Year party, arriving a little late, but still with enough time to gobble up what food remained. We would have a lot of Chinese food leftover to make our way through in the week ahead in any case.