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  • Tom Wade and Claire Yuanqing Zhang

Cambridge Women and Men battle Nottingham's Unis!

Another week and another chance for the men’s and women’s badminton teams to get their much sought-after first victories in Midlands 1A, with both teams playing at home. The men’s team were facing the tough opponents of Nottingham Trent, who were sitting pretty at 2nd in the table behind none other than sporting giants Loughborough. With half of their team ranked in the top 100 in England it wasn’t going to be easy. On the Cambridge side were Marcus Liang, Ben Roberts, Ben Wharton, Oliver Nelson-Dummett, Ritish Desai and Ryan Ng.

The start was less than ideal, thanks to traditional ‘Cambridge timing’ - at least the team was apparently relaxed about the match. Trent, who claimed they had a coach to catch home but conceivably wished to simply gain a further advantage on top of not battling week 5 blues, had little patience for this and Liang and Roberts were somewhat rushed onto court for the first singles matches of the afternoon. Both against formidable opponents, Liang’s with insanely accurate, consistent and powerful smashes down the line, they were both up against it. Roberts impressed on his singles debut, and both managed to gain respectable scores but ultimately lost in straight sets.

The doubles games were more promising, with Nelson-Dummett and birthday boy Warton taking a tight first set 22-20, more than making up for sometimes giving away the attack with some quick and precise defensive shots, often catching their opponents off guard. However Trent weren’t about to roll over and let this one go - they fought back strongly and managed to take the game 2-1. Desai and Ng put in a good showing and came tantalisingly close but also lost out, 2-0.

It wasn’t going to plan but all hope was not lost - a draw was still salvageable and all our team were (possibly more than) warmed up and ready to go for the final 4 matches. Back to the singles but for the second time round the smashes came raining down from the Trent side, and despite giving it their best Liang and Roberts struggled to put a halt to this. Liang got tantalisingly close losing his first set 22-20, but in the end Trent’s players were almost infallible. The penultimate match ended in similar fashion, with Warton and Nelson-Dummett admitting “they were just too strong” after a tough battle.

The final match of the day had been a happy hunting ground away at Birmingham, and would prove fruitful again against Trent. After narrowly losing the first set 23-21, Desai and Ng came back in spectacular fashion, smashing Trent in the last set 21-9, making the overall score 7-1. It seems Cambridge get a little extra something when faced with the prospect of another 8-0 loss, but hope to not be put in that situation next week in their home fixture against Loughborough.

The women’s team were facing the strong Nottingham 2nd team, which mostly consisted of sport scholars; amongst them an England top 40 player. It was going to be tough, but on Cambridge’s side, Helen Briggs, Sarah Collins, Kimberley Chan, Steph Potten, Winnie Liu Sze Wing and Claire Yuanqing Zhang persisted on and gave it their best shot.

The opponents were fashionably at least 15 minutes late, and with Briggs needing to rush off to her 2pm lecture, she kick started with two singles matches in a row. Briggs’ beautifully disguised drops and willingness to engage in long rallies won points from both opponents, but unfortunately she lost both singles in straight sets.

Newly-converted vegetarian Collins was then on court against the two strong opponents for the rest of the singles games. She fought well at the beginning, but with the lack of sustenance, Collins felt light-headed and had to have a quick snack break. She then persisted with the match, showcasing her skilled tight net shots and powerful clears, gaining respectable scores in all 4 sets, but ultimately lost to both opponents.

Doubles pair Chan and Potten were then faced with Nottingham’s 1st doubles pair in their first match, in which the aforementioned England top 40 player was playing. They showed strong play, with cross court shots and net rallies, but unfortunately were defeated two sets to nil. Wing and Zhang gained victory in their debut match against Nottingham's 2nd doubles pair, winning 2-0 whilst displaying good partnership and communication.

The situation was looking much more hopeful as Chan and Potten also took their second doubles match, also 2-0 with Potten’s impossible serves and Chan’s killer smashes, but after two tightly fought sets with both scores in double digits , Wing and Zhang unfortunately lost by 2-0 in the final match of the day.

An overall score of 2-6 is well respected, taken into consideration the little mishaps throughout the match, which shows promise for improvement in women’s home fixture against Loughborough 2nd next week.

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