Joshua Paris hailed a UK Pro League week to remember and the first men’s winner of the season vowed – this is only just the start.
The London-based ace turned 25 on Saturday and gave himself dual reason to celebrate after beating close friend Billy Harris 6-3 6-4 in Sunday’s final.The aggressive right-hander toppled Dan Cox in the semi-final and despite being pushed hard by a resilient Harris, had enough in the tank to win in straight sets and claim a valuable 18 ranking points.
In the women’s competition, the precocious Emily Appleton was crowned Week 1 winner after beating Beth Grey 6-4 6-2 in the Loughborough University Sunday showpiece. Paris finished second in Pool A – behind Anton Matusevich – after the round robin format but hopes peaking at the perfect time on Finals Weekend is a sign of things to come.
Asked if tennis fans could expect to see a lot more of him across the gruelling eight-week season – which culminates in November’s prestigious Finals Week – a relieved Paris roared: “Definitely.
“You’ll definitely be seeing a lot more of me, hopefully towards the end of the year.
“It is a big relief – it was a tough one today. It’s been a long, long week for all of us players, but I thought I did really well. Billy’s an amazing competitor and a good friend of mine, so it’s really good and I’m so happy.
“To be out here, you always have to believe you can win. Did I necessarily think I was going to win? Probably not, but I have good self-belief, I’ve calmed down a little bit and am just trusting myself.”
The innovative UK Pro League brings together the country’s top professional tennis 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 opportunity to accumulate ranking points to seal qualification for November’s Finals Week.
Paris scooped 18 points from his triumph in Loughborough – in addition to over £4,000 in prize and appearance money – and another player to do so was Appleton, who downed Grey in straight sets to get her season off to a flyer.
The talented 21-year-old went into the final unbeaten and extended her sparkling run of form with a fine performance against her Merseyside opponent. Appleton, who competed at last season’s UK Pro Series Finals Week in August, showed experience beyond her years as she beat Grey, 25, 6-4 6-2 in Sunday’s first final. The Surrey ace was forced to battle a nosebleed against her opponent but revelled in her resilience after powering over the line.
Appleton, who hails from Ripley, said: “Beth played really well today and she definitely made me work for it. “I’m happy to come through. I think the end goal for everyone in this tournament is to get to the last week, so by winning the tournament this week I’ve done well. It’s the best I could have done, so on to the next one now.”
On her nosebleed, she added: “It was a bit annoying – it did disrupt me a little bit. I just tried to fight for every point and get the rhythm back.”
Elsewhere on Sunday, Freya Christie claimed third-place in the women’s competition after beating Alicia Barnett in a super tie-break thriller. The Nottingham player, who finished second in Pool A – behind Barnett – won a pulsating ‘buster’ in the third-fourth place play-off to get her season off to a promising start.
And in the men’s competition, Pool A winner Matusevich claimed third after beating Cox in straight sets. Matusevich’s stock as one of British tennis’ most exciting stars continues to rise and the 19-year-old, who also featured at last year’s UK Pro Series Finals Week, said: “I’m very pleased.
“I’m going to be coming back a week after [this] – I’ll be feeling at home out here later. I’m looking forward to it.”
Week 2 of the UK Pro League gets underway on March 15, when Britain’s top professional players will once again take to the Loughborough University court and duel it out for ranking points ahead of November’s Finals Week.