To begin the Semi-finals Day, Alice Gillan faced Lauryn John-Baptiste. Gillan, the favourite and the winner of last week’s UK Pro League competition, was set to beat John-Baptiste. Baptiste, who came through her group in second place, only losing to Arina Vasilescu (who was defeated by Beth Grey in the Quarterfinals) in straight sets. However, John-Baptiste came out of the blocks with fire in her racket and ice in her heart. She took the first set 6-0 with ease in just 1 hour, completely dominating the Week 6 winner in every aspect of the game. Gillan, renowned for her powerful strokes, made just a few too many unforced errors. Against a contender such as John-Baptiste (who is one of the most consistent players playing this week) she was bound to find trouble. The second set was a little closer at the start, with the games tied 2-2. It was from this point that Gillan would not win another game, as her rhythm toppled and gave way for the 23-year-old. It ended 6-2, a confident and gracious performance by John-Baptiste. She will advance to the finals and will face Eliz Maloney. These two have faced one another recently at the 100k Shrewsbury event, in which John-Baptiste was beaten 6-1, 6-1 by Maloney, so it will be interesting to see how John-Baptiste adapts her game to try and get an advantage against the in-form Maloney.
The next match saw George Loffhagen take on Joshua Paris. It was a very tight game, with Paris taking the first set 7-6(5). Both players were using their dominant serves and brutal forehands in the first set to hold each and every one of their own service games. Loffhagen’s backhand was causing a few errors, which was very uncharacteristic of him. This allowed Josh Paris to play out of his skin to clinch the first set from Loffhagen. Was this going to be an upset? No, Loffhagen broke the first game of the second set. In the form that both these players were, all it takes is one break and the set is forgone. So, we saw another match tiebreak. Loffhagen’s backhand and serve was back to normal; he won 100% of points on his serve (6), whilst winning 4/6 return points. It was a truly dominant showing, ending 10-2. This was Loffhagen at his best, although maximum credit goes to Josh Paris, who played outstandingly in the first set, playing well above his ranking. Loffhagen will face Anton Matusevich in the final; they too have played against one another in the round-robin format of Week 7 Pro League matches, in which Matusevich won 7-6(2), 7-5. However, when we spoke to Matusevich he mentioned that this was his hardest matchup, who will win?..
The next matchup in the Semi-finals was between Anton Matusevich, who is considered the favourite in the men’s competition, and Dan Cox, who having taken some time out to consider coaching has come back and is dominating the men’s game. I want to put out a disclaimer that if anyone doesn’t like long deuces, this is certainly not the game for you! Almost every single game in this match went to a deuce; both players’ return games especially shone through. Matusevich broke early in the first set with some absolutely mind-boggling forehands. However, Cox broke back immediately (making him only the second player to break the Matusevich serve since the beginning of this week’s tournament). With the scores level, Matusevich went and broke twice more to make the set 6-2. This is the most unreflective score of a single set of tennis I’ve ever seen. The second set was anything but different, Matusevich broke early and took a 3-0 lead, he then aimed to break again but Cox saved 5 of 6 break points on his serve to keep him in it. But, as mentioned earlier, a single break can change the course of the game and especially when Matusevich is serving, and so the match ended in straight sets 6-2, 6-3. Ultimately, Cox saved 7 break points and Matusevich saved 4 in a wild game.
The last Semi-final came between top seed Beth Grey and Eliz Maloney. Again, a widely anticipated match that could have gone either way! Both players went toe-to-toe, with Maloney breaking twice and Grey breaking once. Maloney broke the serve of Grey to love at 5-4, to conclude that first set 6-4. Maloney’s serving today was great, able to win 81% of the points off her first serve. The second set didn’t disappoint. Both players favoured the break; Maloney broke 4 games in total and Beth a couple. Both players also favoured the strong returns to win points, neither played poorly at all. There’s just something about Eliz Maloney and the way she wins points that she almost goes unnoticed, it goes from 0-40 to deuce before you know it and then she’s broken. A great game played by her and she advances to play Lauryn John-Baptiste in the finals tomorrow.
Other notable games came between Billy Harris and Tiran Sanghera. Sanghera, who lost within his pool to both Joe Tyler and Harry Wendelken, came out firing and putting the pressure on the top seeded male. Harris took the first set, with his first serves doing the damage (93% of points won off first serve). However, in the second, Sanghera saved all break points and converted 1. The set concluded 6-3. Sanghera simply won all of the points off his first serves and returned well. The match tiebreak was over before it began, with Sanghera wrapping it up 10-3. A good showing from him!
Summer Yardley beat Jessica Matthews, with Matthews retiring due to a back injury. Ewan Moore displayed his talent by beating Maceo Simpson, the alternate, in straight sets. Additionally, Michelle Dzjachangirova beat Emma Cohen, however Cohen too retired due to an ankle injury. Finally, there was a strong matchup between Danielle Daley and Jizel Fernandes, Daley wrapped that up 6-4, 6-2, even withstanding the injury that she had during her match against Lauryn John-Baptiste.
The last match of the day was to decide 5th place between Alexis Canter and Harry Wendelken. Canter took the first set, which went to a tiebreak, winning the 75% of the points off his second serves. This plays into the old adage of ‘you’re only as good as your second serve’. In second set Wendelken came back and was able to capitalise on a single break and hold his own serves to win the set 6-3. Then came the tricky match tiebreak, which again saw Canter winning the majority of his serves and 100% of the points off his second serves. Canter’s serve has been an enigma this week; it’s much slower than the other players’ second serves and isn’t too spin-fuelled, but it has proved influential to his victories, with many players not being able to handle it. As a result, Canter takes 5th place and Wendelken takes 6th.
Day 6 results:
• Lauryn John-Baptiste bt Alice Gillan 6-0, 6-2
• Eliz Maloney bt Beth Grey 6-4, 6-2
• Anton Matusevich bt Dan Cox 6-2, 6-3
• George Loffhagen bt Joshua Paris 6(5)-7, 6-3, 10-2
• Tiran Sanghera bt Tiran Sanghera 3-6, 6-3, 10-3
• Ewan Moore bt Maceo Simpson 6-2, 6-2
• Michelle Dzjachangirova bt Emma Cohen 4-6, 6-4 ret.
• Danielle Daley bt Jizel Fernandes 6-3, 6-2
• Summer Yardley bt Jessica Matthews 2-1 ret.
• Alexis Canter bt Harry Wendelken 7-6(4), 3-6, 10-6