Nordin Catic with permission for Varsity

Who is your sporting idol?

I have not been in this game for very long and so, although my immersion into this game was quick, I can’t say I have found an ‘idol’ in a professional player. My ‘idols’ are a little closer to home. So close that they were my captains last year. Both are incredible players, with the women’s captain reaching a personal best rating the day before Varsity and ranking 24th in the world.

Best sporting moment?

My best sporting moment is not related to a particular win or practice but in fact to my return to racket sports. When I was younger, I had a severe shoulder injury that pushed me out of lawn tennis (what we refer to the Wimbledon tennis as). I thus prioritised my academic life and let sport take more of a backseat. I have always done every sport under the sun, and so I continued competing in these once I recovered. In my second year of university, I realised I was trying to replace the void lawn tennis had left with every sport that I could find. I finally felt ready to pick it up again. I found them at the Freshers’ sporting fair when I was manning another stall and was told to think about social tennis, but if I really wanted to, I could attend trials. So, knees shaking I attended the trials with no idea what my level was or what others’ levels were. I was just hoping to get back into the game irrespective of the team. Little did I know this would later result in making the Blues lawn tennis team! This success then opened my eyes to all the sport offered in Cambridge. Coincidently, on a whim, I tried real tennis with my now co-captain in lawn tennis. So you could say my best sporting moment was trying real tennis!

Worst sporting moment?

The worst sporting moments for me will always revolve around injury and losing. To some degree, losing isn’t bad and much can be learned, but much of the time it can be truly disappointing and a difficult pill to swallow. Honestly, despite describing my return to racket sports as my best sporting moment, it was not easy. I battled (and still do) with a lot of injuries, losing and slow progress when trying to remember the sport I had played my whole life. However, in real tennis, my worst moment encompasses both injury and loss; a wrist injury and a tight loss in a match I knew I could have pulled a relatively easy win in.

Why your sport?

It is really difficult to put into words, people just have to come and try! In all seriousness, it truly is difficult to say in a succinct manner. The game is a strange one with angled walls, roofs, random nets and bells, topped off with a host of intricate rules and court markings. But this is what makes it great! You can play this game for a very long time and still be learning. The unpredictable nature of the game is what keeps me and many other players coming back for more. To add to this, every court is different, so playing the game opens the opportunity to travel and see the courts with no roof up in Falkland Palace, the striped court in Prested Hall or one with immense history in Hampton Court Palace. The community is small and friendly, so each match always makes a lovely day out.

What is the best bit about being captain?

This may honestly sound a little played out or cringey but the best bit is truly being able to make the changes that I want to see. The club was amazing to me in my first year – it really accepted me and made me feel part of the community. As a result, I have grown very passionate in wanting to help it improve. As captain, I found myself with the power to do this. For example, I helped introduce the first women’s Oxbridge fixture against the MCC (Lord’s) this year (something the men have had for a very long time), set up a tour of France in conjunction with the men’s captain (hopefully to stay for later years), and pulled off the impossible … Varsity! The support of those around us is what makes it possible for us as captains to make meaningful contributions to the community.

Worst bit about being captain?

I’m sure many other captains can share in the opinion – the admin! There is so much that goes on behind the scenes and sports in Cambridge are mainly run by students. Juggling this captaincy, lawn tennis captaincy and my degree in my final year has been a challenge to say the least. It has put me through my paces but taught me a lot, like how to toughen up and reply a little quicker! As always, captaincy comes with trials and tribulations, especially in the lead up to Varsity with half our team residing outside of Cambridge and a last-minute drop-out days before the first match. However, all this is expected with the role, and when the team came together with a beautiful Varsity win, it made it all truly worth it!

Is it easy for beginners to join?

Very! This sport can be played by all and welcomes all. First, real tennis is accessible to everyone. We have people playing who have never picked up a racket before as well as those who have never played any hand-eye coordination sports. Of course, hand eye coordination definitely helps, but it is by no means necessary! We have players who have come from all sorts of sports such as cricket and hockey, as well as the usual culprits such as squash, lawn tennis and rackets. Secondly, getting on court could not be easier. As you can imagine, the club is relatively small compared to other sports in Cambridge, and so it is incredibly receptive to new members. At the beginning of the academic year, we have plenty of free trial sessions and fun events to help grow the community and give everyone a go at the sport. If you are looking to try it at any other point in the year, the club offers free trial sessions for students with one of the pros (what we call coaches) at the club.

Who could a beginner contact to get involved?

Either the men’s captain (Arthur) or myself. We will be able to put you in touch with the pros, put you into a session, book you a court, or anything else you might want. We are more than happy to try and help you find what you need and get you started!


Mountain View

Captain’s Corner

What might a typical training session look like?

Funny you ask as we are actually in the process of rethinking and hopefully modifying our training session to help us be better geared up for Varsity! At the moment the sessions are usually with your team or those of a similar level. Typically, we begin with a quick warm-up, small taps or volleys – similar to a service box warm-up in lawn tennis. Then we go into the feeding part of the session where the coach tasks us with drills of all kinds. We usually conclude with some doubles and match play practice. In the future, we are hoping to incorporate more targeted match play sessions because actual matches are always different to training ones, particularly in this sport which has so many unique tactics, rules and jagged walls!

When/where is training held?

Training is held at the Cambridge Real Tennis Club on Grange Road which is immediately opposite Robinson College. It is one of the few clubs in the world to have two courts, Oxford only has one! The sessions are usually in the morning or evening but, as a student member, you are able to book out the courts whenever you fancy a hit, a match or to give your friends a go.

How did Varsity go?

As you can tell from the previous answers it was amazing! The MCC were brilliant hosts and Oxford were great competition, giving us exciting matches for both the men and the women. To top it all off, the women walked away with a 5-1 win! Everyone stepped up and played incredible matches! It was truly a special night for all of us and likely one that will be remembered for years to come.