The University of Sheffield’s men’s and women’s first teams both lost their opening league matches 8-4 yesterday afternoon.
After the triumph of Varsity last March, it was a chance for the University of Sheffield’s premier teams to set a positive tone for the upcoming campaign.
The men’s first team, drawn against the University of Durham’s fourth team, and the women’s first team, who welcomed Sheffield Hallam’s first, lost both the doubles matches but did win the last four singles comprehensively.
At the Grave Tennis Centre, both teams had to play two doubles and four singles matches. When a pair or person triumphed, each side’s total number of points increased by two, hence why twelve points were available for six rubbers.
Led by captain Tom Dyakowski, the men’s team included Joe Tingey, Vilis Vitols and debutant Max Heath. Taking to court one and two all four were confident in triumphing over a stern Durham foursome.
As were the women’s team, with Ashley Fletcher leading a line of Natalie Bacon, Sarah Moore and Carla Beceanu against a Hallam side determined to avenge the Varsity loss.
The competitive doubles matches were born out ferocious hitting, tactical tenacity and a sheer will to win. So it was not a surprise that 25 shot rallies from all four games were a regularity. Drop shots and topspin backhands and forehands sliced through the blue sea court, while the occasional lob brought admiration amongst opponents alike. The women’s matches were intense; Hallam created a 4-0 lead by winning both their doubles 6-1 6-1 and 7-5 6-3 respectively.
By Midday every eye was glued to court one and two as the men’s doubles matches ebbed and flowed. In both championship tiebreaks, the third set in doubles, Durham and Sheffield battled it out to open up an early lead in the tie. Every point was of critical importance and Durham’s tactical tenacity under pressure was key to winning both matches, 4-6 7-6 10-2 and 6-2 6-7 10-7.
By lunchtime, Sheffield were 4-0 down in both ties and needed a reboot to win their opening round fixtures. The singles matches created renewed hope when Tom Dyakowski won his first set 6-1, but as the momentum swung Durham’s way so did the scorecard, ending up 1-6 6-3 6-4. A myriad of Sheffield defeats followed with straight set losses of 6-3 6-1 in the men’s draw, with 6-2 6-0 and 6-1 6-4 drubbings in the women’s side.
As the scoreline highlighted that both teams were losing 8-0, Durham and Hallam had officially triumphed. Nonetheless, Sheffield knew that regarding set difference the upcoming remaining four rubbers were vital to league position. Last year the men’s team finished fourth in the first division because of this factor.
With the aim of to win the league, it was hardly surprising that the four remaining singles ended with some emphatic but tight Sheffield wins. First Vilis Vitols won his match 6-1 6-4, in similarly authoritative fashion to Joe Tingey’s 6-2 6-0 trouncing. Ashley Foster demoralised her opponent with a 7-6 6-0 victory while Carla Beceanu rounded off proceedings with a 7-6 3-6 10-5 triumph.
When both scorelines ended 8-4 the men and the women’s team could reflect on an improvement to a weak start but a frustrating day as a whole.
Tom Dyakowski said: “It was very tough losing all of our three set matches because if we had won one of them at least, we would have got a draw, so overall it is disappointing, but it was good to get a couple of wins lower down the order. I think Durham with us are one of the best teams in the league.”
The men’s first team next match is against the university’s second side before a BUCS Northern Conference Cup game against Teeside University on October 26.
The upcoming two ties for the women are away to Liverpool and Manchester Universities, so direction and leadership are crucial.
“We do now have a coach with us during training sessions, so I think that will make a big difference between bread and butter mistakes, and hopefully we are not going to make any more,” said Ashley Fletcher.
With nine league matches and plenty of cup ties shortly both the men’s and women’s teams will take the positives out of today’s defeats. Now a coach is running training for both teams the balls are now in their court regarding a response.