Tournament-favorites University of the East are a win away from ending more than a decade of hunger for that first-ever UAAP Men’s Tennis title.
The Red Warriors needed a huge lift from their double pair of Paulo Baran and Jeric Delos Santos to deny the University of Santo Tomas Male Tennisters, 3-1, and take Tie 1 of the UAAP Season 79 Finals, Saturday afternoon at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center.
“Actually, we don’t have [anything] on our minds. We just played up to the last rally,” Baran shared when asked what their mindset had been after taking a 2-5 deficit in the first set.
“My partner and I are focused naman to win our games to secure the 3-1 win.”
The day started well for the second-seeded Tigers, as junior standout Nico Lanzado upended batchmate Josshua Kinaadman, 7-6, 6-3, in the first singles match.
Lanzado clinched the opening set with a solitary break advantage, as the Season 77 Rookie of the Year from Recto succumbed to errors. It was later revealed that Kinaadman was suffering a hand injury, which made it difficult for a comeback in the second set.
Nonetheless, the Warriors got a reprieve, as Rogelio Estaño Jr. and Rolly Saga levelled the tie after beating Clarence Cabahug and En-En Lopez. The solid UE tandem took advantage of UST’s shaky service game to take the first doubles match, 6-3, 6-4.
Teen sensation AJ Lim then made short work of Dave Mosqueda to put UE in the lead after the second singles match. The sophomore Thomasian broke his opponent’s serve twice in the second set, but problems with his own service games doomed him to two 2-6 set losses.
The Warriors then wrapped the tie up with an ground-out victory in the second doubles match.
UE skipper Baran and Delos Santos came from behind to take the first set at 7-5, before carving a convincing 6-3 win in the third set to clinch the tie.
The Tigers stole the second set with a blanking of the Warriors.
Head coach Numero Lim admitted that he had not been expecting to get the win in four matches. “Actually, ine-expect ko magde-decision pa. Ine-expect ko makukuha namin UST sa 3-2,” he said.
“Yung second doubles namin, ‘di ko in-expect. So, happy ako sa performance ng mga bata,” the mentor said.
The elder Lim fervently hopes that the team will sustain their composure, and that the whole UE community will back them up. “Siguro sa Wednesday, nandito yung buong community para mag-cheer, to support us.”
The Red Warriors will attempt to close out the series and raise the trophy when they battle the Male Tennisters on Wednesday, March 22, at 8am.