AJ Lim capped off an impressive week-long display of aggressive tennis by overpowering Fritz Verdad, 6-2, 6-1, in the final to secure the Mayor Eric Olivarez Cup National Open Tennis championship in Sucat, Parañaque last Sunday.
As he had consistently done throughout the week, Lim launched an early attack mode, claiming the first three points in the initial game of Verdad’s serve.
However, Verdad managed to recover, leading to a tense exchange of points. After five deuces, Lim eventually triumphed, securing the set with a sweep of the final three points.
After a series of held games, Lim, aged 24, broke Verdad’s serve once again in the fifth game and maintained his dominance from there on. They traded breaks in the first three games of the second set before Lim held his serve in the fourth, earning a 3-1 advantage.
He went on to break Verdad twice more, clinching the straight-set victory which came with a prize of P50,000 and UTP (Unified Tennis Philippines) and UTR (Universal Tennis) points.
This victory holds significant importance for the former multi-titled junior player, providing a major morale boost. His last significant win was three years ago in Malaysia, where he clinched both the singles and doubles titles.
“Winning this tournament gave me the confidence and belief that I can compete head-to-head against our top-caliber players,” said Lim, who returned to competitive play in the Brookside Open last April after a hiatus due to illness.
“The key was to be aggressive right from the start and not allow my opponent to find his rhythm and momentum,” noted the former University of the East standout.
“I certainly give credit to Fritz, who managed to stay competitive and make me work for every single point.”
Despite the loss, Verdad expressed satisfaction with his runner-up finish, particularly considering his recent victory over recent Hagedorn Open winner and No. 4 seed Eric Jed Olivarez in the semifinals, following a long break from the game.
“This means a lot because it marks a great comeback for my career. It’s been a fantastic week because this is my first tournament this year,” said Verdad, who previously won in doubles at the Cainta Open in 2019.
He also recently completed Coast Guard basic training, which resulted in a seven-month hiatus from playing.
Verdad and Rolly Saga thwarted Lim’s bid for a double victory in the tournament, preventing him and Ben Libao from clinching the men’s doubles title with a score of 6-7(6), 6-1, 10-6.
the women’s category, Stefi Aludo and Danna Abad secured the title against Paula Uy and Joana Tan.
In the junior category, John Benedict Aguilar defeated top seed Vince Serna, 6-2, 6-4, in the semifinals before overpowering Lexious Cruz, 6-2, 6-0, to claim the boys’ championship. Meanwhile, Aludo clinched the girls’ title with a resounding 6-1, 6-1 victory over No. 3 seed Joy Ansay.
In the Legends division, winners included Arvin Ruel (35-year-old singles), Aldrin Geluz (45 singles), Jerome Bernales and Bryan Saarenas (30s men’s doubles), Roel Licayan and Roy Tan (40s men’s doubles), Noel Lontok and Dustin de Torres (50s men’s doubles), and Tracy Bautista and Arabie Agero (30s women’s doubles).