Bowing to a tradition developed over the last number of years, Dublin University Lawn Tennis Club (DULTC) recently travelled to Monte Carlo, Monaco, to compete in the HEC Clay Court Challenge against some of Europe’s top universities. Held over the weekend of 6th-8th October, three days of competition against Oxford University, Bocconi University (Italy), Esade Business School (Spain), Cambridge University, and hosts HEC Paris was coupled with a lively socialising schedule, including a Gala Dinner hosted in Monte Carlo Country Club.
The competition format of the Challenge is different to traditional tennis tournaments, with alterations made in the interest of expediting the typical slow pace of competition progress. Each “round” consisted of a ladies’ singles, men’s singles, and mixed doubles match. This format played quite a role in enhancing the team-driven nature of the Challenge, as progression through the tournament depended upon your university winning a majority of the matches within each “round.”
DULTC was represented in the women’s competitions by Ellie O’Kane (Women’s Captain), Ali O’Dea and Eve Callaghan; and in the men’s competitions by Colm Kelly (Men’s Captain), Simon Hollingsworth and Gavin McDonnell. Unfortunately, this year’s team wasn’t capable of replicating last year’s impressive achievements, which saw them take third place in the tournament. The competition format meant that, despite many match wins, DULTC were unable to progress out of the group stages, after round losses against Cambridge and HEC Paris. The Trinity encampment are drawing comfort, however, from the reality that some of their best tennis of the season was drawn out of them against the stunning Monaco backdrop in scorching temperatures, as well as a confidence-boosting win over Esade Barcelona.
The results of the competition fell as has grown to be the norm, with Oxford and Cambridge battling it out in the final. Oxford emerged triumphant after the mixed doubles was won in straight sets, while the men and women’s singles both required tiebreakers to separate the Dark and Light Blues.
The experience of taking on competitors from some of Europe’s finest universities is of unquestionable advantage to DULTC athletes. Given the relative weakness of the Irish domestic scene, with approximately 180 clubs affiliated to Tennis Ireland (compared to the FAI’s roughly 2,500 and the GAA’s approx. 2,300; it even trails behind the IRFU’s (rugby) approx. 230), any opportunity to challenge fresh opposition is a valuable one. The particularly small scale of collegiate tennis competition, in particular, puts third-level attendees in particular at a disadvantage; many youth players will be living significant distances away from their home clubs, making their college team the only viable option for their continued participation in the sport. The aforementioned socialising schedule of the Challenge has also proven to be of notable benefit to DULTC. As a result of the connections formed over not only three days of lively competition, but also the “soft” influence of events such as the Gala, DULTC received an invitation from the Oxford team to travel to the UK in the coming months for a friendly competition against the Dark Blues.
DULTC received generous support from Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club and rackets.ie Sporting Goods Store in their pre-Challenge preparations, something which the Club is quick to praise as “invaluable”, elaborating that “…their support made so many elements…so much easier, from training to equipment. We really couldn’t thank them enough”.
In terms of the season yet to come, DULTC’s second-semester ‘Winter’ League will begin in the middle of January. Participants will aim to build off their performance in the Dublin Tennis ‘Floodlight’ League, which ran for five weeks over the first half of Michaelmas term. DULTC athletes competed against some of the top Clubs in Dublin, with both the Mens’ and Ladies’ First and Second Teams competing in the top two divisions nationwide. All sides finished “comfortably” in their respective groups, with relegation avoided and maintaining their position in their Class for the next season.
Additionally, DULTC will compete in their annual Colours clash against UCD on November 11th. The 2023 battle is a highly anticipated affair following a notably narrow triumph for UCD in 2022, given that UCD Tennis are reigning Men’s Cup, Ladies’ Cup and Men’s Bowl Intervarsity Champions.
For those interested in joining DULTC or giving the sport a try, DULTC caters to individuals at all levels of sporting ability. Beginners training is held on Fridays, 6pm – 9pm; Intermediate training Wednesday 7pm-10pm; and Advanced training Mondays 6pm-10pm.