Last Sunday Great Britain’s university tennis team claimed gold at the inaugural Master’U BNP Paribas 2017 held in France. For the first time in history, Great Britain overcame six-year title holders USA to win the title, beating some of their top-ranked college players.
The University of Stirling were exceptionally well represented, with tennis scholars Maia
Lumsden, Jonny O’Mara and Scott Duncan making up half the team. The other half of the
team was made up of Jack Findel-Hawkins (University of North Florida), Emma Hurst and Pippa Horn (both University of Bath).
The first day of play saw Britain, the third seeds, take on Ireland in the quarter-finals. With Findel-Hawkins and Hurst coming through comfortably against their Irish opponents, the baton was then passed to Stirling duo Lumsden and O’Mara. A dominating performance in the first set saw Lumsden come through 6-0 against Lauren Deegan.
Despite a more closely contested second set, Lumsden eventually came through to win the match, 6-0, 7-5. With O’Mara also winning against Pete Bothwell, Great Britain were 4-0 going into the doubles. Eventually, two out of three doubles wins meant that Great Britain progressed to the semi-final in style, overcoming Ireland 6-1.
The semi-final saw Britain take on unseeded China, whom they beat in emphatic style 7-0 to set up a final showdown against top seeds USA. If the team were nervous to face the
six-time title holders, it didn’t show. Despite Hurst losing a tight three-setter against former junior Grand Slam doubles champion Ena Shibahara, the performances which followed showed the GB tennis team to have nerves of steel. After Hurst, Findel-Hawkins came onto court to face Martin Redlicki. A confident performance saw Findel-Hawkins win 6-4, 6-4, meaning that Great Britain were level with USA.
Next onto court came a tough tussle between Lumsden and Ashleigh Lahey, with both sets being decided by tiebreaks. In the deciding moments Lumsden proved why she was ranked 527, showing strong mental strength to win 7-6, 7-6. The final singles match featured a tight three-setter between O’Mara and Brandon Holt, with the Scot eventually winning in a third set tiebreak.
Lumsden’s and O’Mara’s singles wins mean that GB were 3-1 up going into the doubles. This proved to be a vital advantage, with O’Mara and Findel-Hawkins putting in a strong doubles tournament to secure the gold medal for Great Britain with a 4-2 win.
In an interview with the University of Bath after the competition, Alistair Higham (the
Universities Manager at the Tennis Foundation and joint team captain of the Great Britain team) said:
“It was an incredible day yesterday with the whole team contributing to a magnificent
victory. Defeating the USA team with the best of the US College system including former US Open champion and their No. 1 ranked girl and No. 1 ranked boy was very special.
“The team spirit we had was second to none and the players found levels of performance and mental strength required to defeat the champions of six years in a row. This has been the result of a lot of hard work and investment from the Tennis Foundation for the past six years”
Congratulations should go the whole team for a hard-fought win against some of the best
university tennis teams from across the world, many of whom boasted players who have
competed on the ATP and WTA circuit.