In Season 77, only the University of Santo Tomas had provided the toughest challenge for reigning champions National University, setting the stage for an interesting Finals series. NU, eventually, emerged victorious in the title showdown.
Last Monday, NU once again showed UST why they are the current three-time titlists after making quick work of the latter, 4-1, in the Finals rematch at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center.
Reigning Most Valuable Player Fritz Verdad drubbed Al Potutan to clinch the first singles match, 6-1 6-1. The NU veteran was dominant, only allowing two service holds for Potutan. Verdad survived the long rallies and finished them off emphatic winners as if to underline the victory.
In the second singles match, NU’s other MVP Lean Lazaro fended off the challenge of UST rookie Dave Mosqueda, 6-4 6-2. The two protagonists fought toe-to-toe in the first set, exchanging power shots for most of the frame. It was the veteran Lazaro who emerged with the set advantage after getting the lone service break. NU never looked back and finished off UST more easily the second time.
Al Madrio and Jigo Peña then clinched the match for NU over at Court 3, after silencing the gritty UST pair of Joel Cabusas and Bernlu Bering in straight sets, 6-3 7-5. Madrio and Peña cruised past the Thomasians in the first set, as the latter showed signs of jitters as first-time partners. NU controlled the opening frame, before seeing off the challenge of Cabusas and Bering in the second set. With the second set on serve, Madrio and Peña composed themselves and won that crucial break to ultimately win the match and 36th straight tie for the Bulldogs.
Veteran Dheo Talatayod overcame errors in portions of his third singles match to upend UST rookie Christian Lopez, 6-3 6-4. Talatayod took advantage of Lopez’ first time on the singles court in the first set with excellent service and long shots, which worked throughout the match. The Golden Netter had his chances in the match, catching the NU veteran off guard with some timely passing shots. Nevertheless, NU’s solitary break of serve in the second frame secured them the match.
Francis Patiño and Mart Cabahug continued to keep UST on the scoreboard, disposing of Allen Manlangit and Francis Alcantara in the first doubles match, 6-3 6-4. The Thomasians established court control from the start of the match and shook off some miscues to upend the NU pair. Manlangit and Alcantara kept themselves in the outing with timely winners, but UST carved out the win in the end.
Reigning MVP Verdad said that the team had just followed what the coaches instructed them to do. He shared, “We played solid, pero before the game nag-meeting kami. [Alam namin] na isa sila sa ma[bi]bigat na team na kalaban namin this season, pinag-usapan namin kung ano maganda gawing mga strategy.” When asked on their approach on Saturday’s meeting against UP, Verdad admittedly said, “Titignan na lang sa Saturday; we don’t know yet. Pero hoping na ganun pa rin yung result.”