Day 7 saw us crown our 2022 UKPL Champions, but we were also treated to other excellent matches on both courts as we concluded the 8th and final UKPL week of 2022.
First up on court one was the 5-6th playoff between Katarina Stresnakova and Eliz Maloney. Maloney was coming off the back of a very close Quarter Final match in which she went to a nail-biting match tie-break against Lauryn John-Baptiste. Stresnakova, on the other hand, was defeated by Maia Lumsden 7-5, 7-5 in her Quarter Final and, as a result, is certainly pining for that 5th place spot (which holds prize money of £4,000). To begin with, Stresnakova took advantage of a slow start from Maloney going 3 games up at the start, breaking the Maloney serve twice. Maloney, however, came back with vigour breaking twice herself. This was an indication of how the game would proceed. After lots of deuces and break points, Stresnakova was able to get a break in the 10th game, going 0-40 up against Maloney at 5-4. She converted the break, playing some great ground strokes in the process. The next set was rife with excitement and pressure. Stresnakova found herself two break points up in the first game of the second set, converting them with accurate and authoritative striking. Maloney, however, would once again refuse to be quietened down; she pushed to gain 3 break points over Stresnakova. However, perhaps the defining feature of the match was Stresnakova’s ability to make a comeback. She won 5 points in a row in that specific game to hold her serve and consolidate the break. With the score at 2-0, Maloney needed a break soon to try and force a match tie-break. She succeeded, breaking Stresnakova in the 4th game to tie it all up 2-2. After some very good rallies and some great holds, both players found themselves at 5-5 in the second set. Neither was giving an inch to their opponent; Maloney found efficiency in her net play and Stresnakova couldn’t miss the lines. Ultimately, it was Stresnakova in the 11th game that broke Maloney’s serve, achieving 3 break points. It then stood 6-5, with Stresnakova serving for the match. When it all seemed said and done, Maloney won 3 straight points putting immense pressure on the Stresnakova serve. The tension was palpable but, yet again, the tenacity of Stresnakova shone through and she took the game right back to Maloney. Stresnakova then afforded herself a match point and, without hesitation, she took it, securing herself 5th place. A brilliant performance from Stresnakova!
Court 1 also saw the 3rd and 4th play-off between Billy Harris and Charles Broom. Harris had, previous to this match, played Dan Cox in a nerve-jangling and physically demanding fight that ended in a 14-12 match tie-break. Broom, on the other hand, was the unfortunate recipient of Kyle Edmund’s (the former world no. 14) best tennis, also losing in a match tie-break 10-0. Harris started with fury; he ended up 3-1 having broken the Broom serve. However, as Broom began to sweep away the cobwebs, he was able force two breaks and go up 4-3. He then played an outstanding game and found himself with 2 break points. He was able to capitalise on one of these and won the first set 6-3. The return game of Broom was incredible, only allowing Harris to win 55% of the points off his first serve. Harris, a tall man (6’ 4’’), usually uses that big serve of his to dictate rallies but, in this match, Broom was making it very difficult for Harris to win quick and easy points. The momentum lay with Broom in the second set and it seemed Harris wasn’t able to do anything against his ferocious attack lay out. Broom careered through the first 6 games winning 5 of them and breaking twice. Broom’s serve was also very potent, with him winning 80% of points off his first serve. However, there was some last-minute drama; Harris did not accept defeat and pushed on to get a break and bring the game back to 5-4 with Broom to serve. However it was too little too late, as Broom persevered with a strong service game to win the match 6-3, 6-4. What a game from the young Hertfordshire man.
Now, onto the finals…
The Men’s final featured the former world number 14 Kyle Edmund, and Dan Cox. Cox has participated in the UK Pro League every year since it started, achieving 4th place in the Finals Week of 2020 and 3rd place in the Finals Week last year. Kyle Edmund needs no introduction, having once seeded in the top 20 players in the world and reaching the Semi Finals of the Australian Open, where he lost to Marin Cilic in a tough contest. Against Cox, Edmund came out of the blocks flying. Both players able to hold their serve until the 6th game, when Edmund forced a break on the Cox serve. Edmund’s ferocious forehand and serve were doing a hefty amount of damage. The strongest parts of Cox’s game are long rallies as well as his speed, but those were hard to come by today with the electricity that Edmund filled the first set with. Edmund again forced a break in the 8th game to settle the first set 6-2. However, Cox did not accept defeat, he marched on displacing the momentum that Edmund had after the first set and earning himself 3 break points in the 5th game, however he wasn’t able to capitalise on them. It seemed that whenever Edmund started playing his best he was unstoppable, playing passing shot after passing shot with ease. He pushed Cox around the court until finally finishing off the rally with his brutal forehand. It was clear that we were witnessing the glimpses of a top 20 player back in action after 2 years of injury. It was ultimately in the 8th game, after some great tennis from Cox, that Edmund was able to force a break gaining a 0-40 lead. This settled the scores at 5-3. It was then a matter of second nature for Edmund to close out the match. An unbelievable game, Edmund acted as a human highlight reel and was a pleasure to watch. Cox played exceptionally and perhaps would have won against anyone not of Edmund’s calibre. Kyle Edmund is thus named 2022 UK Pro League Champion!
The Women’s final featured Elena Malygina and Freya Christie. Christie championed over Maia Lumsden in her Semi Final, with Lumsden having to retire with injury after the first set. Malygina defeated Lauryn-John Baptiste in a decisive 6-1, 6-1 contest in the other Semi Final. Both players settled in nicely to the first set, Christie served very well and Malygina played very precise ground strokes. The only real break in their serves came from Malygina, who was able to take advantage of some slightly erroneous shots and serves from Christie. The score reached 4-3 with Malygina to serve. The next few games were routine for both players, but Malygina held her serve and finished off the set 6-4. At this juncture, both players were playing very well. Christie’s forehand serve made it difficult for Malygina to attack like she usually does. Similarly, Malygina did her best to stifle the Christie attack with some beautiful passing shots and drop shots. Malygina was able to force some errors from Christie at the beginning of the second set, however Christie (the comeback queen), held off Malygina’s attack and was able to force a break in the 8th game making the score 4-2. She then, with the help of her brilliant serves, finished off the second set 6-3. Onto the match tie-break, where Christie earned herself a mini break at 3-1, but the tenacious young Estonian was not to be left in the dust. She fought her way back and squared the game off at 6-6. It was then when she really turned on the thrusters and cannoned herself to victory in a 10-7 brilliant match tie-break win. Elena Malygina is the 2022 UK Pro League Champion!