22nd January, 2022

Gray and Vasilescu win the first week of the 2022 UK Pro League

The UK Pro League is back with a bang in 2022 with Arina Vasilescu and Alastair Gray crowned as Week 1 winners after a dramatic day of finals action in south-west London.

Vasilescu beat 2021 Pro League Champion Sonay Kartal in a thrilling three-set final to triumph, while Gray defeated Ryan Peniston in straight sets at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton.

The premier league of British tennis, the innovative format is the only season-long domestic competition for the UK’s top professionals and brings them together for seven weeks of action to qualify for the UK Pro League Finals Week in November.

And 24-year-old Vasilescu held firm to win the Week 1 women’s event, surviving a late surge from Kartal to claim victory – having won just three games when they met in the pool stage.

The Romanian, who came into the week as the one permitted “guest” player, led by a set and a double break at 6-2, 4-1 but found herself in a deciding ten-point tie-break after Kartal won six of the next seven games to level.

Kartal held a handful of match points in the breaker but Vasilescu rallied late on to seal victory 6-2, 5-7, 12-10 in an hour and 55 minutes.

“The match was hard. It was not easy to win against her [Kartal] – you have to move a lot and move well. It was a long week so I’m a little bit tired,” said Vasilescu.

“I was 4-1 up in the second set and she started to play a little bit better, I was moving worse and it went to a match tie-break. Somehow I managed to win it!

“I’m going to play Loughborough next and maybe also Birmingham in three weeks. This week has been very good for me because I needed a lot of matches on hard courts. I improved my game after every match.

“It’s going to help me play better in the 25K events and I heard that the players here improved a lot from playing lots of matches. The girls here should have a lot better ranking, it helps the players a lot.”

With 9 of the top 20 British men competing in this opening week of the UK Pro League, the field in the men’s draw was exceptionally strong.

Gray and Peniston also met in the pool stage earlier this week, with Gray winning 10-8 in a deciding tie-break on that occasion.  Both then battled through the knock-out stages to meet again in the final.

However the 23-year-old from Twickenham picked up a more straightforward victory this time around, winning in straight sets to finish the week unbeaten and seal a the first Pro League week victory.

Gray did have to save a break point when serving for the match, but eventually sealed an impressive 6-3, 6-4 victory in an hour and 30 minutes, and he was understandably delighted to come out on top.

Gray said: “Today’s match was very difficult. Ryan is a very good player, a good counter-puncher which is difficult for someone who plays like myself, who likes to come to the net. I managed to serve very well and win the important points. It was a very difficult match but I’m happy to come through.

“It feels great to have won the first UK Pro League, I didn’t play any last year which I was disappointed about but the year before I played a couple so it’s very nice to have won the first one.

“My main takeaway for the past few days and the last week is just match experience really. Getting to get on the match court again and playing against great opponents and feeling the tension in the tight moments and learning how to deal with them. I did that successfully this week and I’ll certainly take that forward into the tournament next week, Loughborough, and the following 25Ks.

“It’s a great schedule in Great Britain for the coming months and the rest of this year. That complemented with the UK Pro League is giving the Brits a great chance to play great matches and earn good money. It’s so great what the UK Pro League is doing to help out British tennis players.”

Week 2 of the UK Pro League will begin on Sunday 30 January at the Graves Club in Sheffield.