9th January, 2023

Anton Matusevich and Katarina Stresnakova Win Week 1

Week 1 of the UK Pro League 2023 concluded on Saturday. Keep reading for a round up of the end of the week and, of course, hear from our first two Week Winners of the year!

With a competitive draw, there were exciting matches the whole way through the week. The semi-finals took place on the 5th day of competition. First up Anton Matusevich and Henry Searle were vying for their place in the final. While Henry Searle was participating in his first ever UKPL Week, Anton Matusevich is a lot more experienced with the competition, having competed since 2020. Matusevich has won UKPL weeks multiple times and, in 2021, won Finals Week to became the 2021 Champion. On the other side of the net, Searle was the youngest competitor of the week at just 16 years old. However, don’t use this fact to overlook him; Searle spent 2022 winning the LTA’s 16 & Under Junior National Championships and competing in the Wimbledon Boys’ Singles. Matusevich started to gain momentum early on in the match, winning a love service game for 2-1 before breaking Searle’s serve for the first time. Searle couldn’t catch up and Matusevich took the first set 6-1. The second set started more evenly, but Matusevich eventually forced a break to go 4-3 up and, despite Searle putting up a good fight until the very end (saving 2 match points), Matusevich won 6-1 6-3. This meant he reached the final without dropping a set.

The other Men’s semi final was between Aidan McHugh and Ben Jones. Currently, McHugh has an ATP singles rank of 372, a quite a bit higher than Jones who sits at 1006. McHugh pulled ahead by taking the first set 6-4. In the 2nd, an early break from Jones gave him a 3-0 lead and he went on to claim the set 6-1. Therefore, the contest went to a 10 point match tiebreak. McHugh took an early lead, which Jones never recovered from. Despite some incredible shots from both sides (see a few tiebreak highlights over on our Instagram @ukproleague) McHugh triumphed 6-4 1-6 10-6.

Aidan McHugh

Searle went on to win against Ben Jones in straight sets 7-6(3) 6-4 to claim 3rd place for the week – a very impressive first run at the UK Pro League for the youngster.

The men’s Final, Anton Matusevich vs Aidan McHugh, was the last match match of the week. Matusevich broke McHugh’s first service game, but McHugh immediately broke back and the first set continued without another break, resulting in a set tiebreak which Matusevich won 8-6. The second set started off just as evenly. Yet again, Matusevich was the first to break to go 3-1 up, but, yet again, McHugh broke back. However, at this point, Matusevich started to pull away. McHugh fought valiantly, including a last minute resurgence when Matusevich was serving for the match at 7-6 5-3 40-0 and McHugh saved 3 match points, but it was too late. Matusevich claimed the trophy in with a 7-6(6) 6-3 victory. A great start to the year for him.

Anton Matusevich last won a UKPL Week in early October

“I’m very pleased to win it. First tournament of the year is always nice to win. Going to come in feeling confident into the 25ks, and hopefully more UK Pro Leagues this year.” – Anton Matusevich after his win

In the Women’s competition the first Semi Final was between Katarina Stresnakova and Danielle Daley . Daley was on good form, having beaten Eliz Maloney for the first time in the Quarter Finals by holding her nerve in the match tiebreak: 6-4, 4-6, 10-6. Stresnkaova was yet to drop a set and had had a decisive 6-2 6-4 win against British no. 9 Eden Silva in her first match of the week.

The Stresnakova vs Daley match started off fairly close, but Stresnakova breaking for 3-1 up was the turning point of the first set, which she ultimately claimed 6-2. In the 2nd set, Daley fought back hard, winning the first 2 games. However, Stresnakova then won the next 4. After the score levelled at 4-4, Stresnakova sprinted to the finish, winning the match 6-2 6-4.

The other women’s Semi Final featured Elena Malygina vs Eden Silva. Malygina was returning off the back of her taking the 2022 UK Pro League Champion crown in November and she sits currently at a career high WTA singles ranking of 347. However Eden Silva was never going to be an easy opponent. The British number 9 sits at 305 in the WTA rankings- a career high for her too. Malygina took control of the start of the match by winning the first 3 games, and she led the rest of the set before sealing the win 6-2. However, in the second set it was Silva who won the first 3 sets and led the way to a 6-3 win of the 2nd. Another close contest that would go to a 10 point match tiebreak. The score stayed pretty even throughout the tiebreak, and before long had reached 8-9. Silva then saved two match points, but the third was converted by Malygina, giving her the win: 6-2 3-6 12-10.

A retirement from Silva in the 3rd-4th match granted Daley her highest ever finish at a UKPL week of 3rd.

Katarina Stresnakova had previously reached 4 UKPL Finals but never claimed the win

Stresnakova and Malygina, the two women in the final, had met in the pool stages of the UKPL Finals Week in November, where Malygina claimed a 6-3 6-2 win. But it wasn’t to be the same story this time. Stresnakova took the lead immediately by breaking Malygina’s serve in the opening game. However, Malygina fought back and ultimately won the first set 6-3. In the second set, Stresnakova broke first to go 3-2 up, but it wasn’t long before her lead was taken away. The close fight led ultimately to 6-6 and a set tiebreak- a chance for Malygina to claim victory. But Stresnakova wasn’t ready to lose another UKPL final and instead snatched a 7-4 win to take the fight instead to a 10 point match tiebreak. This, unsurprisingly, was also nail-bitingly close until the end. Stresnakova saved three match points, and converted one to win 12-10.

Katarina Stresnakova (second from right) wins week 1 and Elena Malygina ( second from left) comes runner-up

Katarina said after the match: “The match was very challenging- Elena is a great player so I knew that before going into it. I played her about a month ago and I pretty much got killed! So I just wanted to play the best that I could and I didn’t want to give up, I was fighting hard and it was worth it. I’m very pleased because it took me a few tries to actually get the win! It was a tough final so it feels even sweeter!”

“I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before but UK Pro League basically got me back up. I didn’t think I was playing tournaments anymore when I came to the UK and they got me going. It’s always a good atmosphere, it’s always good matches and good practise. I actually really love that I can try out things for other tournaments, and I guess it’s paying off!”

Both Katarina and Anton headed straight up to Loughborough after their wins to compete in a 25k event.

Missed the Week 1 action? All matches are available to watch on demand for free at www.ukproleague.tv . Plus, it’s not long to wait for Week 2, which kicks off in Sheffield on January 29th.