6th March, 2021

Grey, Appleton, Paris and Harris make it to the finals of the UK Pro League

Emily Appleton and Beth Grey will contest the first final of the new UK Pro League after the pair came through dramatic tie-break deciders in Saturday’s semi-finals.

Appleton hadn’t dropped a set in five matches this week but had to fight back to overcome Freya Christie at Loughborough University. Grey, meanwhile, enjoyed a perfect start against Alicia Barnett but had to hold her nerve to fight another day.

The men’s competition also provided plenty of drama with Josh Paris and Billy Harris reaching the UK Pro League Week 1 final.

Appleton and Christie got semi-final day under way superbly, with the latter enjoying a strong start to win the first set 6-4. Pool B winner Appleton took the second set by the same scoreline and needed a Championship tie-break set to seal the match, winning that 10-6.

“It was all about fighting for every point and trying to stay tough,” she said. “I told myself to keep trusting my game. Freya played really well, I thought if I could keep putting pressure on her then she might slip up, but I just kept hanging in there.

“I haven’t been able to play since November. So to play seven matches in one week is unbelievable for everyone.”

Appleton will now look to do the double over Grey after the two faced off in Pool B earlier this week. But victory won’t be a foregone conclusion, with Grey in scintillating form in her semi-final, winning the first set 6-0 against Barnett. Unsurprisingly her opponent – unbeaten in Pool A – fought back and took the second 6-2 to force a tie-break.

But Grey held her nerve when it mattered most, an 11-9 final-set scoreline booking her place in Sunday’s showcase.“I’m glad that’s over! It was a great match, it always is between me and Alicia. I came out all guns blazing in the first set, I was executing really well,” she said.“She did really well to reset and come back fighting in the second set, she played some unbelievable tennis, I just had to reset and go again for the tie-break.

“Emily and I played a few days ago and she blew me off the court to be honest, she’s playing very well this week and if I can take care of my serve and take a few chances on hers, it could be a really good match.”

Running across nine separate weeks from March through to November, each week players compete in a round robin format and play-offs to secure League Ranking Points as they endeavour to qualify for the end of season UK Pro League Final.

And Paris has given himself a superb chance of late-season glory after reaching the first week’s final with victory over Dan Cox. Cox had topped Pool B with five wins from five but couldn’t get the better of Paris, who celebrated his 25th birthday in style with a 6-3 6-4 victory.

He said: “It’s been a long week. I had a game plan going in, I wanted to keep the rallies short, he’s such a good player. “I just had to execute and I did. Mentally, I’ve been pretty tough, I’ve gone through some pretty tough matches and I think that helped me in this match.”

Paris will be up against Harris, who lost the first set and came from behind to win 10-4 in the deciding tie-break against Pool A-topping Anton Matusevich. Harris had to fight hard in the second set to get the game to parity but made the third and final set his own to prevail.

Neither Paris nor Harris won their pools but showed their class when it mattered most of all.

“It’s very satisfying. After the first set and through the second, I knew it would be tough to come back,” said Harris.

“I found a bit of form in the tie-break and got over the line.

“I was definitely feeling it when I was trying to hold out those long service games. Anton was playing well and it was tough the whole way through.”

As well as the main finals, all 24 players will contest classification matches on Sunday, with League Points awarded based on final finishing positions that contribute to the overall League Standings.

With a prize fund of around £500k and broadcast live on BT Sport, the UK Pro League is the only place where the British player group come together to compete across the full year.