A wet and windy day was the backdrop to Oxford’s annual visit to the carpeted floors and pristine courts of The Queen’s Club in Central London. This prestigious establishment has played host to such sporting royalty as Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Joseph Sibley, and the team had time to take in their impressive surroundings before getting down to business on the squash court.
Up first was James McCouat against a wily veteran, who expertly controlled proceedings to take the first game. McCouat however began to show the crowd why he is known on court as ‘The Greyhound’ as he chased down every ball, returning it with interest. With his opponent’s energy visibly fading, McCouat closed out the hard-fought win 3-1 with some lung-busting rallies, courtesy of his seemingly bottomless reserves of stamina. Tom ‘The Wildcat’ Paine was next at number one facing Oxford alumnus Alex Portz, famed for his clean striking of the ball. He ultimately proved too strong for Paine as his relentless length-hitting took its toll on the legs of Paine, whose cat-like movement was not able to counter the racket skills at Portz’s disposal. A few tight dropshots and the customary limp Paine handshake later, and the Queen’s man sealed victory.
Captain Tom Trott was able to exact revenge for this defeat however by executing a similar strategy against Alex Portz’s brother, Christian. Long rallies and multiple sprints were the norm in this match, with Trott’s lack of a backhand letting him down in several moments. This did not affect the result however, as the superior fitness of the Oxford Captain compensated for his for his inferior shot making, as his exhausted opponent was unable to chase down Trott’s high looping dropshots, allowing him to take the match 3-1. The Right Honourable Joe Sibley was meanwhile engaged in a heated battle of attack against defence with the Queen’s Number Two, which went right down to the wire, with Sibley just missing out on victory in an agonising 3-2 defeat. Sibley, christened ‘The Lone Rat’ by his teammates for scuttling off to the backrooms between games to collect his thoughts, earned himself the Man of the Match award for his exceptional efforts.
So it was 2 apiece, and it fell to ‘The Rhino’ Tim Delport to decide the fixture at Five. Delport showed both his brutal power and silky skills with deep runs across the court and deft dropshots, even showing off to the crowd with a graceful dive mid-rally. His opponent seemed adept at reading the Rhino’s game however, anticipating shots with ease. A few winners here and there proved to be the difference, and Delport went down in another 3-2, handing the win to Queen’s.
So it was another close defeat for the Blues, who had fallen just short for the second time this season. The team put up a strong fight against difficult opponents however, and were not too disheartened as they enjoyed a sumptuous meal at the Queen’s Club Bar and Restaurant, before heading back to Oxford for a well-earned rest. Queen’s were, as ever, exceptional hosts, and the team will be looking forward to their next match and meal within those hallowed walls.
– By Tom Trott, Men’s Blue Captain