The Oxford University men’s badminton team got off to strong start in the league against old rivals Cambridge. The rivalry between the varsity universities can often be quite heated but the badminton fixture is notable as much for the mutual respect that each side gives to one another as the fierce competitiveness it brings out in the players.
Oxford’s new captain Ryan Manual had put together a strong team which made use of some handy new recruits. Ryan set off strongly by beating his Cambridge counterpart 21-12 and 21-11. In the second singles, Melvin Chen got off to flying start against Cambridge star-man Lars Boyde, racing to a 15-7 lead. Unfortunately, the class of his opponent meant that Melvin went down to 23-21, 21-18 loss.
In the doubles Oxford fielded two freshers and at this stage of the season it was always going to be an experiment. Kelvin Kwok partnered Simon Maine and, after a less than impressive start, began to show some class. Kwok lived up to his new nickname ‘Kid Dynamite’ and played some sublime shots, eventually helping the Oxford pair to win 18-21, 21-13, 21-15. In the other doubles, veteran Gareth Alexander teamed up with David Williams. Despite looking the better pair at times, Gareth and David eventually succumbed and lost 21-12, 21-13.
With honours even Oxford very much fancied themselves to pull through with a slim victory. Unfortunately, disaster struck as Oxford’s captain fell awkwardly whilst playing Lars Boyde and had to retire early. Simon Maine and Kwok began to look much more coherent as a partnership and managed to beat the much more fancied Cambridge pairing. Gareth and David made their match look harder than it needed to be but eventually won. Oxford were denied an overall victory when Melvin Chen failed to beat his opponent despite working hard.
The final score at four games apiece fails to do justice to the quality of the Blues play in this match and prospects for this year’s varsity and league competition look bright.