The Ateneo de Manila University Blue Netters proved their latest upset of the UP Maroons was no fluke, as they scored another edge-of-the-seat victory against archrivals De La Salle University, 3-2, and registered their second straight win of the season, Sunday at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center.
Third-year Ino Canlas opened up the deal for Ateneo in the first singles match against Kyle Parpan, 6-3 6-0. Canlas matched the power game of his La Sallian batchmate and made timely winners of his own. The Atenean turned to his mix of power and placement shots to frustrate Parpan, especially in the second-set shutout.
Johann Exconde and rookie Luke Flores then doubled the advantage for the Blue and White in the first doubles match, 6-2 6-7 6-3, against Jonah Cano and Hans Asistio. Exconde and Flores easily took the opening set, before facing a tougher fight for the La Salle pair in the second. Nonetheless, Ateneo resumed their good service and net plays to subdue Cano and Asistio.
Second-year stalwart Iyo Canlas had been on his way to clinching the Blue Netter’s second win after getting the first set, 6-3, of the second singles match. DLSU’s third-year veteran Qoqo Allian, however, slowly crept back into the game and emphatically took the second-set tiebreak to force a decider. At 3-2 in the third set, the younger Canlas went down on cramps. After being attended to by the medics, Ateneo went on to hold serve, before ultimately retiring due to the injury with Allian up 4-3.
With the second doubles and third single match played simultaneously, the intensity built up at the Center. In the end, it was the Atenean pair of Erj Gatdula and AJ Rivero who finished it off first and clinched the win, 6-4 7-6. Gatdula and Rivero fought toe-to-toe against Betto Orendain and graduating veteran Akio Sy, but the former scored the crucial breaks of serve to get the victory.
Veteran LA Cañizares closed the heated duel for La Salle with a gritty 7-6 7-5 blanking of Ateneo rookie Marcen Gonzales. Similar to the second doubles match, Cañizares pulled off the crucial winners to defeat the solid up-and-coming junior star.
“Siguro yung crucial ngayon yung doubles namin,” Ateneo veteran Exconde replied when asked about the primary difference of last year’s and this year’s teams. Exconde also believed that the renovation of Ateneo’s outdoor courts has played a big role in their performance so far in the season. The fourth-year veteran also shared that new coach, Philippine Davis Cup stalwart, PJ Tierro, is a key reason for their good start. He said, “Nagagawa niya yung job niya as a coach. Alam naman nating player siya [at magaling], pero so far magaling siya na coach.”