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Bulldogs survive Eagles upset axe, jumpstart fourth straight title bid

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Defending UAAP men’s tennis champions National University Bulldogs tamed a stubborn Ateneo de Manila University Blue Netters, 4-1, and start off their campaign for a fourth straight title, Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center.

In the first singles match, reigning Most Valuable Player Fritz Verdad outlasted Ino Canlas of Ateneo in two sets, 7-6, 5-1. The two players fought hard in the first set as neither player seized hold of the frame. Verdad and Canlas had timely winners and unfortunate miscues to keep the match at a stalemate, before the Bulldog stalwart nosed out Canlas in the tiebreak. From there, Verdad strung five straight games to threaten to close out the match. Canlas held serve to stay in the outing, but suddenly experienced cramps to eventually concede the match in NU’s favor.

Dheo Talatayod returned to playing doubles for NU and made a successful comeback, as he and his partner Al Madrio reigned after three sets, 4-6 6-1 6-4, against the Blue Netters’ Erj Gatdula and AJ Rivero. It was an action-packed match, as both players exchanged wild passing shots and counterattacks. The Ateneans took the solitary break in the first frame after errors piled up for the Bulldogs. Talatayod and Madrio got their game going and controlled the court en route to sweeping the succeeding sets.

Ateneo’s prized rookie Marcen Gonzales did not disappoint on his UAAP debut after he banished Jeremiah Latorre in straight sets, 6-3 6-1, to take one for the Blue and White. After going on serve in the first five games, Gonzales romped to four straight games to clinch the first set. The rookie then left no tables unturned in the following set, allowing only a solitary hold of serve for the NU sophomore.

That is all Ateneo could manage, as the Bulldogs took the remaining matches despite some challenge. Francis Alcantara and Jeric Accion clinched the match for the three-time champions after upending Flores and Johann Exconde, 7-5 6-3. NU shook off early games on serve and secured the crucial breaks to take the match and the tie.

Former MVP Leander Lazaro showed his veteran savvy against second-year Iyo Canlas to end the rout for the Bulldogs, 4-6 6-2 6-2. Canlas has forced the otherwise solid Lazaro to errors in the first set and eventually took it by way of a single break. From there, the graduating Bulldog established his game and closed out the Blue Netter in identical 6-2 score lines in the last two sets.

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Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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