Aisha Brown, a second-year medical student at Trinity, became a Cambridge Blue* after the Cambridge University Lawn Tennis Club beat Oxford by 18 to three games in the annual Blues Varsity Match last week.
Aisha has been playing tennis for more than ten years. Her interest deepened aged nine when her father took her to the 2009 Ladies’ Singles Final between US tennis stars, Venus and Serena Williams.
There’s something really special about the atmosphere at Wimbledon which doesn’t come across on TV. Not only can one really appreciate the quality of tennis better when watching live, there is lots to explore around the whole site. I especially enjoyed watching the players just warming up on the practice courts and trying the classic Wimbledon strawberries and cream while sat on Henman Hill.
‘Venus was my favourite at that point’, says Aisha. Inspired by her role model, Aisha began to take the game more seriously, with the support of her father. ‘My Dad has always been involved in my tennis. When I was little he would always have two big Tesco bags of tennis balls and feed them to me and practice with me,’ she said.
While she was used to training four or five times a week, Aisha admits that initially at Cambridge it was a challenge to balance the demands of studying medicine with playing tennis competitively.
All the hard work has paid off this year and if being on the winning Cambridge team wasn’t enough, Aisha has a good friend on the team, Anna Chesca, whom she has known since their earliest days on the junior tennis circuit. Anna, a Murray Edwards student of Natural Sciences, is the captain of the Women’s Blues team for the coming year.
Aisha says the opportunities – and facilities – for students wanting to play tennis competitively at Cambridge are fantastic, but not enough people know or hear about them.
There are so many opportunities at Cambridge like fixtures at Wimbledon, Queen’s Club and the Hurlingham Club, a tournament in Monte Carlo and the Seabright Cup in which Oxford and Cambridge form a joint team and compete against Harvard and Yale. All these amazing things that you can do as part of the first team and there is so much history and culture.
In the summer the first team train at Cambridge University Lawn Tennis Club (CULTC), which was founded in 1881 and is based at Fenner’s on Gresham Road. ‘It has amazing grass courts – probably the best I’ve played on except for Wimbledon,’ says Aisha.
While the standard of competitive tennis is high at Cambridge, CULTC is also a great place to enjoy a social game.
Club membership is open all students and staff of the University, and for social tennis there is no trial. Membership also gives automatic entry into the Wimbledon Ticket Draw so joining might just enable you to experience some of the magic Aisha first encountered as a child – and perhaps be inspired by the latest tennis stars.
Aisha is a great fan of Naomi Osaka of Japan, currently World Number One and the first Asian woman to achieve the top ranking. Osaka won the US Open last Saturday.
I really really like Osaka as a person. She’s always been really sporting, every interview she gives she’s super gracious…I love her game style. She’s super aggressive which is the way I like to play.
‘Aggressive’ in a tennis context means trying to hit a winning shot or forcing an opponent into making an error, explains Aisha. ‘This is in contrast to defensive game styles in which the main goal is to keep the ball in play and avoid making an error yourself. I enjoy playing aggressively as it’s more exciting and I tend to get nervous when playing defensively.’
*The ‘Blues’ system began at Cambridge and Oxford. The first team of common sports like tennis have full Blue status. A player is awarded a Blue once they have played for the top team in the Varsity match (ie against Oxford), attended enough training sessions, and won sufficient matches throughout the year. It is the highest honour for a Cambridge athlete.
Photos: Courtesy of Aisha Brown.