**BUCS Individuals Report – Day 1**
While even the rowers were still in bed, some sleepy-headed CUBaC members headed off towards Sheffield in an unusually luxurious hire car. Stephen made sure his passengers were wide awake by coming within inches of side-swiping another car at 70mph 15 minutes into the journey, and the adrenaline wouldn’t leave our veins for the rest of the day. Our second driver, who shall remain nameless for fear of a retrospective speeding ticket, opted to leave over an hour later and presumably average ungodly speeds up the A1 to make it in time for the morning knockup. Minty green stash aplenty, all 9 of us were raring to go.
First up it was the Men’s Singles. After a wobbly start shaking off the nerves and getting used to the odd green court markings, Tom won his first match in 3 sets. Stephen was out of the blocks far quicker, taking his first set 21-5 and sailing to a straightforward victory. Unfortunately Neel had a tough first round match, but nevertheless managed to take a set off his opponent, something one of Oxford’s M1 was unable to do when facing the same opponent later in the day. Not that this weekend was a precursor for any upcoming matches or anything…. Stephen and Tom made it through their second rounds in straight sets, but unfortunately were both beaten by strong players in the third round, narrowly missing out on making the main draw to play the big guns.
In the women’s singles, Helen was extremely unfortunate to come up against an ex-England player in her first round, but played very well and pushed her opponent hard, including claiming the second set. After a first-round bye, Becky also narrowly lost in 3 sets to a solid opponent, with a very respectable performance. There were plenty of positives to take away from both matches, along with a bit of extra pre-Varsity motivation.
The first day was rounded off with the mixed doubles. First on court, Yu Han and Sylv took a commanding 2-set victory, with Yu Han bringing the trademark 360° backhand smash to the party for good measure. Sadly Becky and Tom couldn’t follow suit, losing out in a long three-setter to a good pair, having not played together in over a year. Neel and Helen comfortably surpassed the first round; then the controversy began. There was much debate over the legality of the male opponent’s serve, including the courtside presence of a tournament official. Despite all this, Helen remained as cool-headed and focussed as always, continuing to play solid badminton. Neel was so angry I think I saw him play a smash, but it wasn’t quite enough, as they were knocked out 21-19, 21-19.
Dominos and other assorted fast foods were a very welcome sight by 10pm, only slightly disturbed by being ‘Portered’ by a member of hotel staff. Satisfied and carb-loaded, it would be game on once again tomorrow for the level doubles.
With everyone but Richard and Pranav on less than fresh legs, CUBaC reassembled for the second day of the competition. First on court were Helen and Sylv (having had a bye in the first round), staking a strong entry into the prestigious ‘shortest combined surnames for a doubles pair’ competition. They weren’t too shabby at hitting shuttles either, smashing and dropping their way to an emphatic 22-20 third-set win in round 2. Into round 3 and everyone was well aware that a win here would earn them their Full Blue – there was lots on the line. Facing stiff competition, they didn’t let a 21-9 loss in the first end phase them, and dug deep to take the second set 21-19. Despite playing some very high quality badminton, sadly the third end narrowly slipped away from them, with the final scoreline 21-17.
Just the men’s doubles remained, and it was a very strong start for the light blues, with all 3 pairs making it through the first round. Neel and Tom went to three after taking a set to figure out they had to cut the opposition’s best player out of the game, Stephen & Yu Han and Richard & Pranav looked relatively comfortable, and all 3 pairs were playing well. Stephen & Yu Han were first on court for their second round match, but even with ‘Yu Han beast mode’ activated, they struggled to contend with Notts Trents’ strong front-court attacking, with the match slipping away in two sets. Neel and Tom had a slow start on the adjacent court, and despite upping their consistency in the second set, didn’t manage to take a set off the Derby pairing. The mantle fell to Richard & Pranav, and they delivered in style. A 21-19 win to conclude a thrilling three-setter put them through to the third round, and just one match away from the main draw. It was always going to be tough, but after losing the first end, Richard & Pranav used their famous serve and return skills to great effect to fight back and win the second set 21-18. Sadly their opponents stepped it up once again in the final end, knocking Richard and Pranav out of the competition.
Overall CUBaC had probably the most successful BUCS weekend for at least 6 years. Shoutout to Ben R and Rachel who unfortunately couldn’t make it – hopefully you’re both back on court soon! Thanks to everyone on the committee who put time and effort into organising the trip up. Everyone played very well, and there were tonnes of great games. Perfect practice for Varsity in less than 2 weeks time – it’s going to be tough, but let’s bring our A-games and prove to O*ford and everyone else that last year was no fluke!