Emily Appleton is just win one away from a UK Pro League 2021 hat-trick after reaching the Week 3 Final in Loughborough. Appleton took top spot in last month’s opening two weeks of competition and is back doing what she does best at the Dan Maskell Tennis Centre.
But this week’s route to the Sunday showdown came in rather different circumstances, with semi-final opponent Sonay Kartal having to withdraw through injury following the first set, which Appleton won 6-4. Appleton will now face Eliz Maloney for Week 3 honours – live on BT Sport 3 and UKProLeague.com – with the two familiar opponents having met in the round-robin stage this week as well as the Week 2 Final.
But the men’s and women’s finals won’t be the only action on court. Classification matches will be played to determine the week’s final standings and crucial league points, which players will use in order to qualify for the UK Pro League Final Week.
“I had a bit of a slow start but Sonay played really well at the beginning, I don’t think she missed a ball,” said Appleton. “I started to find my feet and by the end of the set, I felt I was serving pretty well. “I’m really thrilled to be back in another final, three out of three is a great achievement so whatever happens in the final, I’ll be really happy. It’s always a great battle against Eliz because she’s a great competitor, I’ll just focus on my strengths and what I can do well. It’s been a different week to the first two, I feel like I’ve found my momentum again and I’m looking forward to the match.”
Three wins from three different weeks would be an outstanding achievement but her opponent won’t be giving her a free pass to glory. Maloney reached Saturday’s semi-finals with five wins from five in the pool stage, with victory over Appleton one of the highlights of her week. And she carried that form into the last four, downing Freya Christie 7-5 6-2 to reach back-to-back finals in Loughborough.
“I played well, it was a good match – Freya and I always have really long rallies but I just tried to stay positive,” said Maloney. “There’s always things you can do better. I just want to stick to my gameplan and make some small adjustments from this match. I’ve played Emily three times now, she’s serving big and playing some good tennis, so it’ll be about trying to take it on where I can.”
With injury ruling Kartal out of Sunday’s third-place play-off, she is confirmed as finishing fourth this week with Christie placing third. The Premier League of British tennis, the innovative UK Pro League brings together the country’s top professional players and runs across nine separate weeks from March to November.
The season-long competition involves players competing in a round robin format in eight individual qualifying weeks, with the weekend play-offs then giving them the chance to accumulate ranking points to seal qualification for November’s Finals Week. And there’ll be a familiar face in the men’s final with Anton Matusevich, victor last time out, back bidding for a shot at top spot. Matusevich didn’t drop a single set in his round-robin matches and maintained that scintillating tennis to beat George Houghton 7-5 7-5.
“It was a very good match, he played very well, served well, came out as an underdog but his forehand was very good, I’m just happy to get through it, I really enjoyed the match and hopefully I can win in the final. It’s awesome to get in the final again, there’s lots of matches and I’m building up some nice confidence as well.”
Matusevich will be up against Henry Patten in Sunday’s final, wasting little time making his mark in his first week of UK Pro League 2021 action. Patten felt he wasn’t at his best against Julian Cash but held his nerve when it mattered most to win 7-6 7-6.
“I don’t think either of us played very well, it certainly wasn’t our best tennis but mentally I was happy with how I competed. This is my first week here so it’s amazing to reach the final, I came here with moderate expectations but it’s a new event and venue for me so I’m happy to get through that. I got a bit lucky with some of the results but I’m looking forward to the final, I’ll have to be on it.”