With the Finals ticket sealed with results from earlier tie, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons still managed to emerge victorious despite a lackluster performance over the De La Salle University Green Netters, 3-2, Wednesday at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center.
The Maroons started off on the wrong foot, dropping all the opening sets in the first three matches of the day. Angelo Esguerra managed to keep it close against Kyle Parpan in the first singles match. However, Parpan broke Esguerra’s last serve of the frame to take it, 7-5. On Court 1, UP rookie Lenard Cheng, who was playing his first UAAP match ever, conceded the first set of the second singles match to La Salle’s own newbie Betto Orendain, 1-6. Lastly, Green Netters Jonah Cano and Qoqo Allian took the first frame of the first doubles match with a come-from-behind 7-5 win.
Orendain then managed to dominate the following set against Cheng. The La Sallian gave up mere points, but finished off his batchmate at the other side of the net, 6-0. On their part, Cano and Allian doubled the tie lead for the Taft-based netters with a 6-2 win in the second set to take the first doubles match.
However, things turned around in UP’s favor in the succeeding minutes of the outing. With the rest of the three matches of the tie being played, the Maroons showed some signs of comeback as they won the sets that finished at that moment.
Esguerra sprang back to life as he routed Parpan in the second set tiebreak of the first singles match to force a deciding set. In the third singles match, Joshua Cano shook off some errors and registered a service break advantage over LA Cañizares to get the first set at 6-4. Likewise, Enrique Ferrer and GBoy Mariano took care of Hans Asistio and Akio Sy in the opening frame of the second doubles match, 6-3.
La Salle’s Asistio and Sy regrouped in the following set and disposed of Ferrer and Mariano, 6-1. The Maroons succumbed to errors in this frame, which Asistio and Sy replied with easy kills and winners.
Over at Court 2, at the end of the second set, Parpan was limping due to cramps. The La Salle veteran managed to break Esguerra’s opening serve in the third set, but he was visibly in pain. Parpan played two more games, which his opponent won, until he suddenly stopped and called for help. Ultimately, the DLSU Team Captain was forced to retire and concede the match in Esguerra’s favor.
With their team suddenly getting some lifeline in the tie, the remaining Maroons buckled up and controlled their own matches. Despite strong resistance from Cañizares, the steady play of Cano prevailed in the second set, 7-5, leaving UP’s other doubles pair to finish off the tie. Eventually, Ferrer and Mariano rose up to the task and nosed out the opposition, 6-4, in the final set to take the match and the tie for the Diliman-based squad.
The win officially marked UP’s return to the championship round with a 7-3 win-loss record. La Salle, on the other hand, suffered a winless season, but vowed to bounce back next year.
Tie 1 of the UAAP men’s tennis Final between UP and defending champions National University Bulldogs is scheduled on Saturday at 8am. The Bulldogs hold a twice-to-beat advantage. If NU win, they will acquire their fourth-straight championship. Otherwise, the winner-take-all tie will happen on the following day, Sunday, also at 8am.
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