“Upset alert” averted.
The University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers denied the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles their first victory of the season as they upended the latter, 3-2, to keep up with undefeated National University last Sunday, February 8, at Olivarez College Tennis Center.
Blue Eagles rookie Iyo Canlas started what would be an interesting day, as he pounced on Growling Tigers junior Hakeem Cariga in straight sets 6-2 6-1. Canlas, a candidate for Rookie of the Year (ROY), impressed with good ground strokes and timely returns to keep him afloat in the battle.
On the middle court, a heated duel happened as the Ateneo tandem of rookie Erj Gatdula and sophomore Anton Punzalan took on veterans Francis Patiño and Al Francis Potutan. Patiño and Potutan began the match with excellent service games and net play to get ahead and win the first set, 6-3. Gatdula and Punzalan though went on to counter in the following set as their returns finally became on point to answer the UST service. Ateneo won the next set in a tight 6-4 scoreline.
In Court 3, it was long-time Blue Netters doubles specialist Johann Exconde who surprised everyone with great singles tennis against Tigers’ captain Lou Bering. Bering, who was playing off in the recent matches, couldn’t seem to find his groove against the Atenean. The first set was close, however, as both players tested each other. Exconde won the first set tiebreak, 7-6(4).
After the Iyo Canlas win on Court 1, Ateneo followed it up with a victory courtesy of AJ Rivero and Ino Canlas. The first set was close as the Blue Eagles and their opponents, Joel Cabusas and Leroy Bering, fought toe-to-toe in the early goings. It was Rivero and Canlas who first broke the UST service and won it, 6-4. With better execution on their serving and coordination on their defense, the Blue and White ended the match in two sets, 6-2. It was a 2-0 lead for ADMU, who was seeking its first win.
UST took one back though as Patiño and Potutan were able to stymie the duo of Gatdula and Punzalan. The Tigers’ veterans were able to serve well and forced the young Ateneo duo into errors. UST was not denied this time as they won the first doubles match in the third set, 6-3.
Thomasian rookie Francis Lanzado, another candidate for the ROY plum, made short work of returning player Joaquin Paras of ADMU, as he played excellent textbook tennis with good serving and patient play, 6-1 6-0. Lanzado was able to put UST into a deadlock with the Blue Eagles at two matches apiece.
Growling Tigers captain Lou Bering showed signs of comeback as he was able to tie their match at one set all, winning yet another tiebreak in the second set, 7-6(2). The easier tiebreak win was an indication of Bering’s uprising, as he upheld Exconde in the decider to clinch the tie for UST, 6-3.