Another fantastic week of tennis concluded here at Graves Tennis Centre, Sheffield, on Saturday. UK Pro League welcomes a new Week Winner, Hamish Stewart, who was one of a handful of players competing in their first ever UK Pro League week. UKPL 2022 Champion Elena Malygina returns to the top of the women’s competition, putting her loss in the Week 1 final well behind her.
Men’s Final: George Houghton vs Hamish Stewart
George Houghton moved from strength to strength after his flying start to the week. He beat top seed Filip Peliwo (who was unfortunately hampered by an injury) 6-3, 6-1 in the quarter finals, and Sean Hodkin, some 150 places his senior in ATP ranks, in a closer semi-final: 6-4, 7-6(6). Houghton has competed in many UKPL Weeks previously, but has only won once before. He came close to repeating the feat last October, but was beaten by Anton Matusevich in the Final. This was another chance to take the crown. Houghton was up against Hamish Stewart in the Final. Stewart, a recent graduate of the University of Georgia, had spent the week picking off the competition with apparent ease. His quarter final against Ivan Denisov was wrapped up in 58 minutes: 6-1, 6-3. It was a similar tale against Alexis Canter in the semi final: 6-3, 6-0. He seemed unstoppable.
George Houghton had a flying start to the week
Houghton started strong; two aces during his first service game helped him win it without dropping a point, and the momentum continued with an immediate break of Stewart’s serve. The next break of serve didn’t come until Houghton was 4-1 up, where a few too many errors from Stewart allowed Houghton to break again. Houghton then served out the set to love, hitting two aces, to take the first set 6-1. At this point in the match Houghton seemed in control, making fewer errors than his opponent and with an impressive ability to return Stewart’s lighting fast serve, which Stewart’s previous opponents in the week had been less successful in doing.
A double fault from Stewart was not the fresh start he would have wanted in the second set. Houghton broke his opponent in this opening game, but the contest seemed to be evening out- both players winning some great points. A few cracks started to appear in Houghton’s game at this point, there was a few more errors and his usually outstanding backhand was finding the net more than its usual landing place in the back corner of his opponent’s side of the court. Stewart capitalised on this, converting his first break point of the match to even the second set score. 1-1. It was game on.
Strong serving from both players delayed the next break of serve until Stewart broke Houghton’s serve to go 4-2 up. With Houghton losing the consistency he had in the first set, it didn’t take long for Stewart to close out the set 6-2. And so the Men’s Final went to match tiebreak.
Stewart charged ahead in the tiebreak, racing to 7-1 until a couple of errors allowed Houghton to begin the catch up- the score reached 8-4. The last four points showcased both players ability- some great tennis, but Stewart ended the match with a delicate backhand slice over the net, winning 1-6, 6-2, 10-6. What a comeback from the first set! He joins the handful of UKPL players who claimed the win on their debut- a fantastic achievement.
Hamish Stewart wins Week 2 on his debut
Women’s Final: Elena Malygina vs Arina Vasilescu
Elena Malygina headed into her 3rd UKPL semi final in a row with her usual routine of losing no sets in her run to the final. Malygina is, of course, our reigning UKPL champion, but she lost in the Final of Week 1 to Katie Stresnakova and was therefore likely keen to avoid another 2nd place. However Arina Vasilescu, the other finalist, had also won a UKPL week in the past, and she beat Anna Brogan, who is equal in WTA rank to Elena Malygina, in an intense semi-final match 2-6, 7-6(1), 13-11.
The Women’s Final began with each player breaking each other’s serve in the opening service games. Another break came from Malygina to go 3-1 up, but yet again Vasilescu immediately broke back. 3-2. The next game was crucial for Vasilescu and, unfortunately for her, some erroneous shots aided in Malygina getting another break of serve. From this point on, Vasilescu struggled to catch up, and Malygina won the first set 6-3.
Arina Vasilescu is a proven UKPL Week Winner
Malygina started off the second set just as strong, and broke Vasilescu’s serve immediately, with Vasilescu visibly frustrated at some of her shots into the net. Malygina was sending the ball all over the court with ease, her accuracy and power didn’t falter and she had soon won two consecutive games without dropping a point to go 4-0 up. Vasilescu won two service games, and saved a match point, but could not break back. Malygina swept up the win 6-3, 6-2, reminding us, yet again, why she’s a Champion.
Elena Malygina is back to number 1