A Historic Performance at BUCS Nationals
Updated: Apr 3
Photo cred: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bucssport/albums/72177720296804372
BUCS Individuals (part of BUCS Nationals) in university badminton terms is the only badminton BUCS tournament event of the year, where athletes have the opportunity to wear their uni colours but represent themselves individually against the crème de la crème from across the nation. A starting draw of 128 qualifiers is narrowed down quickly to a pool of 16 by knockout competition, whom are then invited to face the starting 16 tournament ‘seeds’ in the Main Draw of the competition.
All matches were best of three sets and all disciplines of badminton were played: Men’s and Women’s singles, doubles, and finally Mixed doubles. Matches were played across three days 18th-20th February, with Men’s, Women’s singles and Mixed doubles qualifiers in the first day, level doubles in the second.
We go through the disciplines one by one, but here are the accepted entries that represented Cambridge this year:
Men’s: Tom Wade, Zack Schofield, Pranav Santhosh
Women’s: Helen Yan, Linling Shen, Anchal Garg
Men’s: James Xu/Tom Wade, Richard Parsons/Pranav Santhosh, Finlay Smith/Simon St-Amant
Women’s: Helen Yan/Linling Shen, Anchal Garg/Rosia Li, Cherizza Choi/Sylvia Ma
James Xu/Helen Yan, Richard Parsons/Cherizza Choi, Zack Schofield/Rosia Li
There was a certain lack of willingness throughout the squad to wake up early on a Friday to make the 5am journey start to Sheffield, so the majority of our players made the move up to the Fitzwilliam Arms Hotel in Rotherham on Thursday evening. With warnings from our president that the place was a ‘third-rate make-do hole’, we were expecting to camp out the night club scouts style, but to our surprise the rooms weren’t bad at all. Treated with luxuries of Netflix TV and the ability to pickup last minute supplies at a nearby ASDA, the squad settled down for the night, and dreamt about the sort of 5-star living George was used to.
With full english breakfasts necked the next morning, all players were ready and set to hit the courts.
The day took off promptly with Tom Wade one of the first on court for his first round match. Things looked like they were running smoothly with an easy-going 21-14 win in the first set in a breeze. His opponent, Benedict Tan from Edinburgh, looked to ramp things to a new level in the second. Both players caught on fire, with Tom’s trademark smashes causing havoc on the battlefield – but to no avail. Benedict’s defences stood strong, and after returning every shot to close to perfection, overcame our Cambridge friend 21-14 and 21-18 in the second and third. Some of the rallies were huge, and made up to what came to be a 38 minute thriller:
How long do you want the rally? Tom: Yes.
Pranav meanwhile quickly dusted off a victory during Tom’s struggles. His opponent from Cardiff was no match for him, and a comfortable 21-7, 21-19 victory took him into the second round.
Here he faced more resilient competition. A second round encounter saw him face the likes of Liverpool Uni, where a strong and physical opponent awaited. Pranav was quick out the gates with a 21-18 victory in the first set. But the second and third was a war of attrition, with not many long rallies, with both players forcing mistakes out the other. After a shoddy 21-10 loss in the second, Pranav sought revenge in the third, but narrowly missed out. A 16-21 loss in the deciding set sealed his fate for a second round exit, but an impressive debut singles campaign nevertheless.
Pranav casually controlling his opponent around.
Zack, who had fallen asleep after receiving an unexpected walkover in the first round, was finally called onto court a little past midday at Sheffield. A tall and explosive player from King’s College London squared him, with a physique and playing style resemblant of Wei Nan. There was nothing to fear from our man Schofield, who at 17-17 in the first set pulled away with 4 clutch points on the trot securing the first set. However his opponents long reach and powerful wrist strength came into its own, with Zack’s defence being tested to the extreme. Acrobatics and finesse pleased the Cambridge crowd, but ultimately Zack was conquered 14-21, 18-21 in the final two sets.
David vs Goliath. Zack is unfazed from his tall opponent.
It would be wasting words to describe the first two matches of Helen and Linling in their singles, for they had polished them off in a business-like manner. A combination of reassuring draws and their own brilliance saw them both advance to the third round without as much as a worry in our CUBaC hearts.
A much different fortune awaited Anchal, who having started the day with a friendly bye into the second round, was met with an outstanding singles player from the University of East Anglia. Perhaps the first round bye was more of a curse than a blessing, as Anchal struggled to gain footing in her opening BUCS debut, dropping the first set 11-21. She kicked things up a notch for the second, raining down cross-court slice winners than led her opponent stranded. However her opponent Jess Bateman was too strong, upping the pace of the game impressively and managing to build a big lead at the start of the second. A 8-21 loss for Anchal left the squad disheartened.
Linling and Helen both met formidable opponents in their third round. With a potential main draw entry and full blues status on the line, both knew they couldn’t mess around. Helen was first to the stage, coming against Vidhi Garg from Warwick. Both players matched each other toe-to-toe when it came to speed, with Helen launching terrifying attacking shots only to be countered with spectacular defence from her opponent. A solidifying 21-19 win in the first set reassured Cambridge hopes of a full blue in badminton (first in current CUBaC memory) but a lapse on concentration saw 10-21 second set, and a nail-biting third end. With Helen struggling to find length with the slowed down shuttle, her quickness was more than up to making up for the task. A dramatic last few moments saw composure from Helen across the finishing line, edging our her opponent 21-19 in the third.
The Full Blue was never in doubt for Helen.
Linling was quickly to follow against Keya Patani from Southampton. Her opponent was physically strong and was able to up the pace of rallies with big smashes and steep drops. However Linling’s picture perfect slow drops found their spot every time, tiring her opponent in the process. After a horrific 7-point consecutive loss to her opponent from being 20-12 up, a plum-on-the line attacking lift saw Linling grab the first set 21-19. Worries of a hamstring tweak swept through the CUBaC crowd as it seemed like Linling was grimacing in between points during the second, but equally her opponent had been extremely tired out through Linling’s shot precision. A marathon second set led to victory for Linling 28-26 (!), giving CUBaC not one but TWO main draw entries from the first day!
Just an everyday 21-19, 28-26 win for Linling
On the next day (Saturday) this indeed brought CUBaC into newfound territory, with the main draw women’s singles kicking off late afternoon. Helen fought valiantly against the Scottish International and second seed Rachel Sugden, while Linling put up a tough fight against BE WS grade A Emily Beach (and 5/8 seed); ultimately both falling short, but certainly giving performances which delighted their fellow Cambridge friends and gave them more than enough to cheer for!
A clash with titans: Linling and Helen taste what another level feels like.
Zack and Rosia got quick off the mark that Friday afternoon, with worry-less wins 21-14, 21-17 in the first round. Camera-ready Rosia put a steady performance for her youtube vlog, but sadly was unrecorded as James had been drawn to the action on the third rounds of Helen and Linling’s women’s singles at the time. Nevertheless this put them in a good time for their second round, where they sadly faced a very tough second round against a pair with the guy Jai Chandarana being grade B in singles. A sad but uneventful 11-21, 11-21 loss drew their day to a close, and sadly also Zack’s first BUCS experience as he was not going to play men’s doubles the next day.
The second of the first round mixed doubles saw Helen and James looking to add to the successes of Helen’s very recent third round victory in the singles. Looking to build on this high, they were met with perhaps the unluckiest first round qualifying draw of the tournament and clashed with a fabled hidden Malaysian junior international and his partner. It was immediately clear Yue Chern Chua (with an impressive BWF profile dating back to 2015 might I add) was a class above. Helen and James tried to capitalize on his partner, but to no avail and fell quietly to a 10-21, 13-21 loss. As background info, Yue Chern Chua reached the quarter-finals of the men’s doubles and round of 16 for the mixed doubles both with (decent, but) underwhelming partners in comparison.
The highlight in the mixed doubles came from Richard and Cherizza. Having cruised through their first round match to 10 and 13, they looked to pick-up from where Zack and Rosia had left off in the second round against a pair from Glasgow Caledonian. It looked like it was going to be a steady game with our Cambridge pair storming to a 18-8 lead in the first set, but it was much unfortunate as a beautiful deceptive net shot from Cherizza caused a mis-footing from one of their opponents to twist his ankle. A retirement proceeded, and Richard and Cherizza found themselves on the brink of reaching the main draw.
Their third round match was the last to finish of the games played on Friday, as they collided fists against an unorthodox Nottingham Trent pair. Richard’s male counterpart Lai Tsz Yin was quick and nippy around the court, retrieving shots from awkward positions throughout the match. This led to a swift 21-14 victory for the opponents in the first set, but all was not lost. Cherizza came back to shut the door in the front court, allowing Richard to bomb down smashes and ultimately claiming the second 21-17. All to play for in the third – and with the entirety of the Cambridge and Cherizza’s fans from Imperial watching – every point won was cheered and celebrated. A nerve wrecking finish had the Cambridge pair at 20-19 match point, but a couple of mistakes was all it took for the Trent pair to pip them back and win the race 22-20 in the deciding set. An emotional ending to the day indeed for CUBaC.
Richard and Cherizza getting the job done. So close to the win!
There were yet again many first round mismatches for our women at the beginning of the second day, with Sylvia and Cherizza warming up to a 21-10, 21-8 win in their first match to stretch the legs. Sylvia, looking to test out her newly acquired state-of-the-art racket from Christmas looked to pound the life out of some shuttles, but little did she know the challenge that lay ahead. Sylvia and Cherizza slammed into a brick wall, facing Izzy Pike and Tamara Prostinakova in the second round, who simply made zero mistakes throughout. Cherizza threw everything she could at them, but to no avail as a woe of mistakes from trying to overextend their opponents’ faultless defence saw them fall short 16-21 in the first, and a frustrating 5-21 in the second. Their opponents eventually went on to beat a seed and reach the Round of 16.
Helen and Linling had a similar experience to that of their singles, where their first two rounds went by in a breeze to the point in which some of the matches finished without the Cambridge squad even realising they had started! A 21-3, 21-4 victory in the first, and 21-5, 21-12 in the second round, Helen and Linling looked to taste the feel of main draw once again. A fierce looking UCL pair stood in their way, and the match looked difficult from the onset. Their opponents Sammy Chen and Charlotte Atkins raced to a 20-16 lead in the first, but Helen and Linling bounced back with 6 points in a row(!) for a 22-20 win to start things off. Performance never slacked off but after 16-21 loss in the second, all attempts to fight back in the third were cut off, with no answers to Charlotte’ incredible strength. A 16-21 loss in the third meant the end of Helen and Linling’s BUCS journeys, but they had certainly both got their money’s worth!
Anchal and Rosia enjoyed the luxuries of a first round bye (two byes for Anchal!). This didn’t stop them from taking any opportunities they had to step on court though, as they knocked up and practised net shots whatever space they found on the courts in between matches. This proved a wise decision, as they aced their first time on court against their second round opponents 21-13. A fast and reassuring start gave them confidence in the second – much needed as their opponents had stepped up their game. Rosia’s thunderous smashes rained havoc, and gave them the edge they needed to crawl across the line to a spectacular score of 26-24 in the second!
Their third round saw another tough match-up, playing against a ferocious Birmingham pair who’s left handed player Lucy Attewell was not to be messed with. Her incredible strength gave trouble to Anchal and Rosia who couldn’t quite keep up with the pace of the rallies and dropped the first 12-21. However an ingenious change of strategy along with Anchal catching fire at the net and on the defensive end saw a destructive 21-14 in the second, and forcing a deciding third. The Cambridge crew were excited to be behind what could have been a third and fourth blue in the tournament, but sadly a struggling 14-21 loss crushed Anchal and Rosia’s hopes. Nevertheless, with two CUBaC pairs getting to the third round it was a monumental achievement regardless!
Giving the Birmingham girls a run for their money - a spectacular R3 match for Anchal and Rosia!
James and Tom sadly continued their misfortunate first round draws, meeting yet another Edinburgh pair with steel like defence. Although James and Tom ramped up their intensity and performances to never before seen-like levels, it was too little too late as the game winners were eventually the ones that made fewer mistakes. A little error here and there cost them the match 15-21, 19-21. Their Edinburgh opponents went onto lose in the second round (in a tight match in three sets) to a pair that eventually went onto score 15 and 18 points off the tournament second seeds Sam Parsons/Sam Ricketts, demonstrating the monstrous qualifying bracket that James and Tom found themselves in.
Tom and James: Siuuuuuuu
Richard and Pranav faced similar troubles. A speedy left hander and his partner a strong smasher from Swansea University gave them a hard time. Our Cambridge pair gave a heart-felt effort, but ultimately a disappointing performance led to their downfall of 15-21, 13-21.
Finlay and Simon however wrote their own story. With a easy-going first round draw (**sigh of relief**) against an unknowing Aston pair, a brief 21-11, 21-9 win in only 17 minutes had Cambridge men’s doubles hopes still intact. Their second round opponents from Keele gave them a little more trouble, but were also overcome without a doubt in Cambridge hearts. A score of 21-17, 21-12 took Finlay and Simon to the third round, where a potential main draw opportunity awaited.
They concluded what ended up being the last Cambridge presence at the 2022 BUCS Individuals campaign with a show. Their opponents Menglin Shi and Xuan Song from Manchester looked half asleep in the first set but somehow against the run of play sneaked a 16-21 defeat for Cambridge. Needless to say Simon and Finlay pounced in the second. Bringing down thunderclouds with his steep-angled smashes it looked like the Cambridge pair couldn’t lose when their opponents conceded the lift to Simon, who had his eyes on the prize for a deciding set. Having won the second end 21-17 and forcing a third, the Cambridge crowd couldn’t help but notice that our Oxford counterparts James Lin and Ian Ho were also in a similar situation in the court beside, being forced to a third set. You couldn’t write a more dramatic script, as both the Cambridge and Oxford pairs ‘aligned’ their score boards by both being down 11-18 in the third, but to come back point by point slowly but surely. However it was not enough and despite Finlay heroic acrobatics, lost in the third 17-21. James and Ian meanwhile also fell 19-21 in their match.
Last game of the day: Finlay and Simon ready for the challenge.
Everyone enjoyed a nice heartful meal at Five Guys that Saturday evening. With no matches to be played the next day from CUBaC, one by one our players headed home to face the reality that is they had missed out on a weekend's worth of work :(.
A hugely successful BUCS journey had the crew content and happy as they shuffled back to their cars to endure a two and half hour journey back to Cambridge. Well played all!
Written by James Xu
Publicity Officer 2021-22
Thanks for reading! See you soon!