The 4th day of a UK Pro League Week is always packed full of action. It sees every player compete in a mix of Quarter Finals and 9-12th round robin matches. This one certainly did not disappoint.
The Quarter Finals commenced with Elena Malygina taking on Andre Lukosiute. Malygina took hold of the match from the very start. Breaking 3 times in both sets, she propelled her way to an early victory and concluded the first match in just over an hour 6-0, 6-1.
On Court 1, we were first treated to a contest between Katarina Stresnakova and Maia Lumsden. The first set was incredibly tight. Lumsden, due to a slightly sloppy start, found herself 4-0 down; Stresnakova even made it to 5-2 up on Lumsden’s serve. However, through Lumsden’s stoicism, she was able to break 3 times to make the set 7-5. Lumsden’s variety simply caught Stresnakova off guard, the forehand dropshot reminiscent of Carlos Alcaraz. The second set didn’t disappoint either. Both players broke one another numerous times, Stresnakova was brilliant off her backhand and Lumsden’s variety was, once again, to be applauded. The tension was palpable, it held right up until the 7th game when Stresnakova broke. Lumsden then broke back, then they both held and, in the last game, when Lumsden was 6-5 up she converted a hard-fought break concluding this thrilling match. That was an awesome match, one for the UKPL history books! If you missed it make sure to catch it on demand on the Tennis Channel. Wow, just wow!
The next Quarter Final match featured Joshua Paris and Billy Harris, two decorated players. Harris, currently ranked 322 in the ATP Rankings, started slightly shaky and allowed the dominant Paris to get ahead 6-4. Paris’ backhand started and stopped the rallies with fluidity and ease, not to mention his forehand and serve doing damage. However Harris, a veteran of the UK Pro League, was not finished whatsoever. In the second set, Harris played systematically and with confidence. He won almost 90% of points off his second serve, affirming that old adage, ‘you’re only as good as your second serve’. Harris, therefore, capped off the second 6-4. Now, to the match tie-break: Paris, although playing many fine shots throughout the match, couldn’t capitalise and Harris used his confident strokes to overwhelm the 26-year-old. It ultimately came down to the clinical serving and powerful ground strokes that earned Billy Harris the win (10-5).
Harry Wendelken vs Dan Cox was another exhilarating match. The match could be dubbed a clash of the ages; Wendelken being 12 years Cox’s junior. The match started with a sparkle; both players broke early on, but Wendelken prevailed with his electric speed and cat-like agility to gain a break up and take the first set 6-4. This first set went to deuce innumerable times; neither wanted to give in and consistency was the name of the game. The second set was a spitting image of the first. The rallies were quick but controlled, generating power beyond the realm of man. The second set ultimately fell into the hands of the Cox (6-4). The match tiebreak was, without fail, exactly the same! Consistency ruled with an iron sceptre, a minor fault and the game would be lost. Cox took a mini lead at the start taking it to 5-2, but Wendelken could not be shown the door; his young animosity was not to be subdued. Ultimately, Cox took charge and nipped Wendelken at the post 10-7. Another match I highly recommend to catch up on if you missed it!
Kyle Edmund showed his expertise in his Quarter Finals match against Giles Hussey and defeated him convincingly 6-2, 6-3. Edmund’s first serve was once again absolutely dominant; he was able to win 30 of 40 shots off his first serve. Equally, his forehand commanded respect during the rallies, with Hussey failing to reach many of the blistering shots Edmund produced. Ewan Moore vs Charles Broom ended with a similar score. Broom swept Moore away in straight sets: 6-2, 6-4. Broom’s serving was imperative to his win. He was able to dictate the rallies from the back, however not without Ewan’s brilliant speed and court coverage to engender some awe-inspiring rallies. Both players fought well, but it is Charles Broom who advances to the Semi Finals.
The next of the blockbuster matches on Court 1 came from Eliz Maloney and Lauryn John-Baptiste. Eliz Maloney, who needs no introduction with the year she’s having, climbing 700 WTA ranks this year alone. Lauryn John-Baptiste, 500 ranks Maloney’s inferior, is also having a great year, coming 3rd and 2nd in Weeks 3 and 7 respectively. Their head-to-head record favours Maloney, who defeated John-Baptiste in the Week 7 UK Pro League Finals. In the first set, Maloney imposed herself from the get-go, using her powerful strokes along with her dynamic court movement to take the lead. However, John-Baptiste is a fighter above all and she tussled her way back in the second set. Both players broke one another over 4 times, but, ultimately, it was a beautifully precise backhand that earned John-Baptiste the break late in the second. Nothing compared to the beauty of the match tie-break. Maloney and John-Baptiste were toe-to-toe in a battle of grit, after an hour and ¾ of gruelling match play they persevered to give us some of the best rallies not only of the day, but of the week. Maloney, in the tie break, kept a small break lead over John-Baptiste. At 7-5 it looked ominous for John-Baptiste and Maloney looked as though she could do no wrong. However, John-Baptiste would not give up. Point after point she drew nearer and nearer to that final winning result. Finally, to show just how brilliant she was, she won with a ground-quaking backhand that licked the line. 7-7, 7-8, 7-9. It seems as though each match here today tells its own story, this, most certainly, was a sight to behold.
Another terrific Quarter Final match featured Freya Christie and Gabriella Knutson. Knutson took the first set 6-3, winning 100% of the points off her first serve. However, if there’s anything one should know of Christie is that she is a trooper, she saved 7 of 7 break points against her serve. An outstanding second set from Christie made the scores equal. Then, to another match tie-break, this one was a photo-finish. Christie had 3 match points at 9-6, but Knutson brought it back to 9-8. Just as it looked like Knutson was making her way back, Christie closed the door on her chances finishing the match 10-8.
We certainly had some incredible and nail-bitingly close Quarter Finals, but Thursday also saw the start of the 9-12th round robin matches. In these, the pool of four players compete against each other to gain points (3 points for a straight sets win, whilst a 3 set match earns the winner 2 points and the loser 1) from which the finishing order is determined.
The 9-12th round-robin matches commenced with Arina Vasilescu, who was just bested by Freya Christie yesterday in the Pool matches, and Joanna Garland. The match was always going to be tight, with Garland also losing both Pool matches against two very strong competitors. The beginning of the first set was clinical from Garland, who gained 4 break points- two of which she converted. In the second set, Vasilescu was the one to take hold of the breaks and grabbed 3 off 3 chances. That was the beginning of the end for Garland, who fought admirably and very possibly could have won, but a few unforced errors were her undoing. The final result came out as 3-6, 6-2, 10-7.
Also in the 9-12ths, Danielle Daley took on Alice Gillan, with Daley wrapping up that match in a hard-fought but decisive 6-2, 6-3. Hodkin performed very well when facing George Houghton, with fine placement and acute power. Houghton seemed perhaps more erroneous than he usually is, especially on the backhand side and over the short ball. Nonetheless a superb finish by Hodkin winning 6-3, 6-2. Meanwhile, Anton Matusevich defeated Tom Hands 6-3, 6-1 and will play Sean Hodkin on Friday.
Watch the matches live on BT Sport, the Tennis Channel and ukproleague.tv all week. Tickets to come and watch are available here