by Luis Miguel Miclat
Facing a twice-to-beat disadvantage, the University of the Philippines battled their hearts out against defending champion National University but still lost 3-2 in the finals of the UAAP Men’s Lawn Tennis Championship Tuesday at the Philippine Columbian Association.
The Maroons, who finished fourth last season, ended a 13-year finals appearance drought after placing second in the elimination round. UP posted eight wins and two losses, both against the Bulldogs who touted an immaculate 10-0 record.
“It’s not bad,” said UP Coach Junjie Guadayo of their runner-up finish. “Kahit na talo tayo sa finals, we fought hard.”
Things looked promising for UP early on as Rookie of the Year Jurence Mendoza maintained his undefeated streak, thrashing NU’s Dheo Talatayod in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1.
The Bulldogs quickly countered as Michael Madrio and Jigo Peña dispatched UP’s Ique Ferrer and Angelo Esguerra in doubles, 6-2, 6-2.
NU sustained momentum as Leander Lazaro schooled Joshua Miranda, 6-2, 6-2, to pull ahead 2-1, one match away from retaining their crown.
But UP foiled their plans as Maroon duo Franklin Encarnacion and Gabby Guiterrez slipped past NU’s Al-Khady Jainul-Jeric Accion duo in a three-set thriller, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, to set the stage for the deciding match.
Season 76 Most Valuable Player Fritz Verdad then showed his might to carry the Bulldogs into their second championship, hammering Maroon’s Joshua Cano, 6-2, 6-0.