It’s been an exciting few days here in Nottingham during the first stage of the 2022 UK Pro League Finals. In the pool stage, the 12 players are split into pools of 3, within which they compete. The top two from each pool proceed through to the Quarter Finals, whilst the third place enters the 9-12th play-offs.
The hotly contested Pool C consists of George Houghton, Kyle Edmund and Dan Cox. Kyle Edmund, a wildcard this week, has a previous career high ranking of 14, although he only recently returns after an 18-month break due to injury. The first match came between Edmund and Houghton. George Houghton, currently sitting at 1523 in the ATP rankings, is one of the smoothest players of the ball in the Finals Week. Houghton found himself 5-2 down in the first set with Edmund’s patented forehand letting loose. However, Houghton played not just immaculate- but rhythmic- tennis. His shots were perfectly placed with enough power, and he went on to win the set 7-5. A fantastic showing from the young man from Guildford. However, the next two sets would not fall to Houghton, who struggled after his brief episode of magic to compete toe-to-toe with a hitter of such calibre as Edmund is. The game ended: 5-7, 6-3, 10-2. Unfortunately, Houghton’s loss was doubled as he faced Dan Cox. Cox, a man of superb talent, reaching a career high ATP ranking of 206, was able to overcome Houghton in emphatic fashion 7-6(2), 6-1. Houghton was out, and so the final showdown of Pool C came between Dan Cox and Kyle Edmund. The match was electric with both players breaking and subsequently losing their serves. But at the end of the closely fought battle Edmund beat Cox in a thrilling match tie-break (10-8). Dan Cox, although losing to Edmund beat Houghton in straight sets and due to the formatting of the tournament (2 points for win in 3 sets, 3 points for a win in straight sets), Cox heads the group.
In Pool D Josh Paris, Sean Hodkin and Charlie Broom battled it out for the top two spots. Josh Paris lost in a 3-set defeat to Sean Hodkin in the first match. Hodkin, as a result, seemed in fine form going into his match against Charlie Broom, but lost in just one hour 6-2, 6-3. Broom saved 5/5 break points during the match and held his nerve to secure him the 3-point victory. The last match featured Paris vs. Broom, which would determine if Paris made it to the Quarter Finals. In the end, Paris was able to secure a confident 6-3, 6-4 to place him at the top of Pool D with Broom in close second. Broom will play in-form Ewan Moore, whilst Paris is set to face Billy Harris in the other Quarter Final.
The illustrious Pool B did not disappoint. It contained last year’s UK Pro League Champion Anton Matusevich within the ranks, as well as Billy Harris, a definite contender for the title, and Ewan Moore, also a strong competitor. Ewan Moore began his unbelievable run, in widely regarded as the toughest men’s pool, by beating Billy Harris in a stellar performance 6-3, 7-5. Ewan Moore is the epitome of electric on the court, there’s unquestionably nothing that this man can’t reach. In that vein, any inconsistency and he will pounce- not to mention his shot making is fantastic. Next up, in an astonishing display, Ewan Moore defeated the defending Champion 6-4, 7-6(2). Matusevich began in his own characteristic style by slapping and whipping the balls around the court breaking Moore in the 5th game. However, after this break, Matusevich seemed to slip marginally, which led to Moore capitalising by converting some break points to win the first. The second set showed just how impressive both players can be. Anton, hitting with such power the echoes are endless and Moore, with such a firm determination not to let the game slip; the second set proved to be nail-biting. Moore saved 5/6 break points and ultimately broke Matusevich who was serving for the second set. Moore used his speed and talent to blow the ex-UK Pro League Champion out the water and win in straight sets. Ewan takes on Charlie Broom in the Quarter Finals. The last match between Matusevich and Harris was widely anticipated. The loser would go into the 9-12th play-offs, neither thought at the beginning of the tournament that Ewan’s meteoric rise would stifle one of their entries into the Quarters. Harris, from the offset was serving cannonballs and forcing errors from Matusevich. Additionally, he saved 6/6 break points and forced a break of his own to take the first. If the ex-champion was to remain a contender for the title, he had to win the next set. After a dramatic end of the second set, in which Billy was almost broken when serving for the match, ultimately Harris came through victorious. Harris plays Joshua Paris in the Quarter Finals, which should be electric.
In Pool A, Harry Wendelken came out on top beating Brandon Murphy in straight sets and Giles Hussey in a tightly fought 3 set match. Wendelken, thus, tops the pool with 5 points. Brandon Murphy unfortunately had to withdraw after one match, which allowed Tom Hands the alternate to take the reins. Thus, the final match of day 3 came between Giles Hussey and Tom Hands. After the first set (which Hussey won [6-0]), Hands fought admirably, pushing Hussey all around the court and making it a scintillating watch. Ultimately however, Hussey forced a break late in the second set to clinch the win- a well fought battle between the two! Hussey now takes on Edmund in the Quarter Finals, this will be an incredibly tight match.
With the Pool’s round-robin matches complete, we now turn to the 9-12th round-robin matches and the Quarter Finals of the UK Pro League Finals Week. Watch live all week on BT Sport (Court 1), the Tennis Channel (Courts 1 & 2) and ukproleague.tv (Court 2).
Tickets are still available to come watch the action at Nottingham Tennis Centre- buy here