Ahead of the BUCS National Individual Championships taking place this weekend, the University National Premier League team champions have already been decided, with Durham University men’s and women’s teams being crowned University National Champions.
The BUCS National Premier League is the pinnacle of the team event which involves over 300 university tennis teams battling it out every Wednesday from October to February.
The two titles mark a Durham double double, with both the men’s and women’s teams retaining the National Premier League titles they won last year.
The Durham men’s first tennis team started the 2016/17 season off the back of a record breaking 2015/16 season, when they won both the National League and Championship. The team were quick to start where they had left off with an early 12-0 win against Exeter. A week later, Leeds Beckett provided the first challenge of the season and pushed the team to what would be their tightest score of the season so far. From there, the team went from strength to strength, ending the first half of the season with the loss of only four rubbers in eight matches. By the time the men had defeated Stirling 10-2 at Loughborough in their penultimate fixture their league title was secure, but their relentless drive to be the best was exemplified in their final 12-0 win against Bath.
The consistency of the team for the past 18 months has been extraordinary, but a special mention must go to Dom Beesley who is still yet to lose a singles rubber in his entire university career. Dom’s singles record of 34-0 and his commitment to the program has made him a clear leader within the team.
Dom, a third year student and Men’s 1st team captain, said: “Last season we set the bar incredibly high. Whilst it was arguably impossible to ever exceed winning the first national league title to the loss of only one individual rubber, retaining the title in such emphatic style to the loss of only 5 rubbers is a phenomenal achievement in itself. Our goals at the start of the season were to go unbeaten in 2016/17 thus retaining both league and championship and we have already achieved the first of these. A swift and easy integration of our top two postgrads was essential and the drive and hunger to be national champions for a third successive year couldn’t be greater. All four of us are excited for the knockout competition to start and are ready to embrace the challenges we will face in the coming months”
Durham’s women’s team began their bid to win a second straight National League title in convincing fashion with a 12-0 defeat of Cardiff Met before meeting their rivals of the season, Stirling. Stirling had ended the Durham women’s Championship run last year and again proved to be the team’s toughest opposition. Stirling came out on top 8-4 in the first top of the table clash in October. The Durham women regrouped from that loss quickly and started a dominant run at the BUCS weekend in London with four straight 12-0 wins. The team entered the final round of matches having lost only five rubbers in eight matches. After a 12-0 win against Bath on Saturday the team’s attention soon shifted towards the following day where Stirling loomed large in the league decider. Durham started strongly, winning both doubles rubbers to lead 4-0. Stirling were soon back on the team’s heels however after some tight three set matches left the score at 6-4 in Durham’s favour. With the match and the league in the balance, it was all down to Jess Ren at number four to secure the league title. One more rubber would give Durham the 8-4 win they needed. Jess comfortably won the first set but was forced to fight back from 4-1 down to win the second set 7-6 and clinch the league title.
Women’s captain Sarah Lee believes the team environment the girls created was a key to their success and said: “To be a part of accomplishing a goal that Durham strives to reach every year was a huge honour. As a post-grad with only one year to compete, winning a national league title and the BUCS Championship while creating a positive team culture was at the forefront of what I want to contribute to DULTC. Achieving half of these goals has been so much sweeter with the amazing group of people in DULTC. Without the work we’ve put in on and off the court in an environment such as the one we’ve created, a national league title would not have been possible.”
Alistair Higham, Universities Manager at the Tennis Foundation, said “Congratulations to Durham on their tremendous success. With their exciting plans for an indoor centre, they will continue to be a force in GB university tennis for years to come. The standard of the BUCS National Premier League continues to rise.
The next major event in the university calendar takes place this weekend, with the BUCS National Individual Championships and the Tennis Foundation’s National Student Conference being held at Loughborough Sport Tennis Centre.
The Tennis Foundation is Great Britain’s lading tennis charity, and works to open up tennis to its priority audiences of young people in education, disabled people and people in lower socio-economic communities, making it possible for them to enjoy the many health and social benefits of the sport whilst maximising their potential.
As part of its work around university tennis, the Tennis Foundation provide support for universities to get more students playing the sport and help them reach their full potential through tennis, both on and off the court.
Follow university tennis on twitter using #unitennis, or to find out more see https://www.tennisfoundation.org.uk/play-tennis/university-college-students/.