The Prentice and Seabright Cups are traditionally contested every two years, played alternately at Seabright Lawn Tennis & Cricket Club in New Jersey, and the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon. This time it was Oxbridge’s turn to cross the pound. With this year’s competition marking the 100th anniversary of the Prentice Cup, the teams arrived in America looking to do what had never been done before — by winning both the men’s and women’s trophies.
After a month of traveling along the east coast, playing in various warm up fixtures and watching the pros in action from the presidential box at the US Open, the Oxbridge team was ready. Day one kicked off with a round of doubles. Cambridge’s Emily Arbuthnott (Wolfson College), a two-time national team tennis champion with Stanford University, and Izzy Marshall (New College, Oxford) won 6-1, 6-3 against Harvard/Yale’s second pair, while Anna Chesca (Murray Edwards College) and Mandi Furaji (Corpus Christi College, Oxford) triumphed 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 over the first pair. These two Oxbridge victories set the tone for the weekend, earning the team a lead that would never be relinquished.
On the men’s side, an all-Cambridge — and all-Homerton — doubles pairing of Esah Hayat and Jack Wilson-Smith fell 6-2, 6-3 to a strong opposition first pair. A tightly fought contest then saw Michal Kaminski (Fitzwilliam College) and Oxford’s Louis Manson bring the score level, prevailing 6-4, 7-6. A further 6-1, 6-1 Oxbridge victory, this time for Ross Martin and Jack Molloy then earned the visitors a slim 2-1 lead at the close of play on day one.
The singles matches began on day two. The Oxford/Cambridge team won three singles matches, but so did their opponents. A second round of doubles matches allowed Harvard/Yale to equalize overall, with the score at the close of play at 6-6.
Meanwhile, comprehensive wins for Arbuthnott (6-3, 6-0) and Chesca (6-1, 6-2) in their first singles matches of the weekend took the Oxbridge women to a 4-2 lead at the end of the penultimate day’s tennis, needing three more wins to seal the Seabright Cup.
In a series of dominant displays the next day, this target was decisively met. All four players dispatched their opposite numbers in straight sets in a morning of singles matches that confirmed that the Seabright Cup would be traveling back across the Atlantic. The rest of the matches were made up by wins for Arbuthnott/Marshall (4-6, 6-1, 6-1) and Chesca/Furaji (6-3, 0-6, 6-1) to take the overall tally to 10-2.
There was no such dominance in the battle for the Prentice Cup. Despite Molloy besting Harvard/Yale’s number one 6-4, 6-1, three consecutive defeats saw the away team trailing 7-9 overall, their dreams fading away. However, Wilson-Smith and Manson were both still playing, yet to finish their singles matches. Digging deep, both players won three-set matches in a tense atmosphere to bring the score level going into the final round of the doubles.
In a dramatic finish, dwindling light meant that the final matches would be decided by a championship tie-break in the event of a third set. After two matches, two championship tie-breaks, a controversial line call and an umpire’s overruling, the teams were still yet to be separated with the scores at 10-10. It was up to the Molloy/Martin partnership to decide Oxbridge’s fate. With a championship point at 7-5, 5-3 up, Molloy, who had been imperious all weekend, double faulted. However, no such mistake would happen again and the Oxbridge pair closed out the set 6-3 to clinch the double win for the visitors.
This was the first time in all nine installations of the dual-cup competition that both the men’s and women’s Oxbridge teams have won their respective cups in the same year. It will be another two years until Harvard/Yale make the trip to England for the return event, seeking to win back both cups.
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