Online Sport Editor Matt Bugler reports on a faultless afternoon for the tennis team as they continue their cup progress.
Exeter’s Tennis Men’s 1sts advanced into the quarter-finals of the BUCS cup after a routine 12-0 win over Coventry University on Wednesday. Despite the absence of captain Ashtey Pauls, who was suffering from illness, Exeter’s progression never looked in doubt as they won all their matches without dropping a set.
The Coventry team certainly looked the part in their dark blue kits, but their tennis wasn’t to be as sharp as their outfits. The doubles opened with newly-elected AU President Andy Higham partnering Pauls’ replacement Armand Baboian, and Higham made a statement in the opening game by firing down four unreturnable serves.
Coventry’s little-and-large pairing appeared to lack cohesion and they were repeatedly undone by Higham’s impenetrable presence at the net. There was a moment of controversy when Coventry hit a shot that rebounded off the scorecard on top of the net post and landed in, but Exeter claimed the point on the basis that it wasn’t part of the court. Baboian was sometimes uncertain with his judgement, but held on his own when serving to help Exeter to a 6-3 6-4 win.
On the adjacent court, Exeter’s Jonathan Nathar and Fred Britton romped to a 6-0 6-0 victory. Britton was returning to the 1sts after being dropped, and he played with a point to prove, strutting around confidently and leathering returns off short serves. He produced a moment of magic in the final game, recovering back after being lobbed and making a seemingly impossible backhand flick to win the point and draw gasps from around the courts.
Britton’s singles match was equally impressive, and he defeated a poor opponent with flair and panache to another double bagel scoreline. He was in complete control throughout, and the sheer pace of his shots was blowing his opponent backwards in several points.
Baboian’s match was slightly tougher, as he had the task of dealing with a fast serve from a lofty Coventry player. Serve dominated the start of the match, but once Baboian got the first break at 3-3 his opponent’s game began to unravel. The Coventry man’s all-or-nothing game was increasingly rewarding him with nothing, and Baboian’s use of the slice made it difficult for him to get down low, giving Exeter a 6-3 6-2 win to seal their progress.
Nathar competed in the penultimate singles match, and looked far more athletically fit and strong than his opponent. His smooth, effortless technique saw him cruise home 6-1 6-1 with the minimum of fuss.
Higham finished proceedings with a final straight sets win. He played with full confidence, happy to trade backhands and always eager to approach the net. An early break saw him lead 3-0 but his opponent fought back to level the set with some aggressive tennis. Higham was unperturbed and his superior consistency allowed him to take it 6-3.
Another minor wobble allowed the Coventry player to recover from 0-2 in the second set to 2-2, but thereafter Higham rediscovered his top form. The pace of his groundstrokes was making the Coventry man more and more flustered, and Higham’s coolness was epitomised by the huge second serve that clinched the match, 6-3 6-2.
On his willingness to attack the net, Higham said “I’m working on being aggressive all the time, I’ve been focusing on it in training in the last couple of weeks and it’s been working well when I’m serving. [The absence of Ashtey] definitely put more pressure on me, as Ashtey and I haven’t lost much together, so it was a big loss in singles and doubles.”
Exeter learnt that their quarter-final would be an away tie to Stirling University in Scotland, involving flying over on Tuesday night next week. When asked if he was looking forward to it, Higham replied “not really, and they’ve got a very strong team. But it should be a good trip away on the plane with the boys”. Let’s hope that this confident Exeter team can find further success this season.bookmark me