Queen of Loughborough Emily Appleton insists she’s still in pursuit of tennis perfection after waltzing her way to a second consecutive UK Pro League crown, writes Will Jennings.
Surrey’s golden girl stormed to a brilliant Week 1 triumph earlier this month and followed up those unbeaten exploits in Week 2 – without dropping a single set.
Appleton, the British No.23, won all five of her Pool A matches before breezing through the semi-finals and toppling Eliz Maloney 6-3 6-3 in Sunday’s showpiece.
14 wins from her first 14 matches is a formidable record but Appleton, who’s now racked up a maximum haul of 36 ranking points, says she won’t stop striving for improvement.
The 21-year-old, who also beat Maloney 6-2 6-3 in the Pool stages on Friday, said: “I think there are a lot of things I can work on.
“I’m never content with how I’m playing, and I think there’s always room for improvement, so I think I’ll go back to the drawing board next week and see what else I can do better.
“That was a really hard match – a battle. Eliz definitely made me work for that. We played earlier in the week as well, and that one wasn’t easy either.
“I knew I had a battle on my hands today, and I was very happy to get the win.”
In the men’s competition, Anton Matusevich was crowned king of Week 2 after beating Mark Whitehouse in a thrilling battle of the boffins.
Whitehouse, 27, has balanced his tennis career with a Mathematics degree at Imperial College while Matusevich, 19, studied a data science course in lockdown and is a keen economist.
The pair are also practice partners but it was Matusevich, who sits one place ahead of Whitehouse in the British rankings, who came out on top after clinching a pulsating super tie-break 10-6.
The Sevenoaks star took the first set 6-2 before Whitehouse showed all his resilience to overcome a knee injury and level in a tie-break.
But Matusevich bounced back in the champion tie-break and the British No.17, who was playing in his first ‘buster’ of the week, believes he’s finally adapting to the indoor conditions at the Dan Maskell Tennis Centre.
“It was quite an intense final and I’m really happy to get through it,” he said.
“I think I’ve just got used to the conditions – I’ve been playing quite a lot of matches, I played Dan Cox on the second day and that’s probably the best match I’ve ever played in my life.
“I’ve just really focused, been really consistent, tried to hold my serve and get in the rallies. I’m extremely happy to get through – I think once you get used to it, you get much better.”
The Premier League of British tennis and brainchild of Jamie Delgado – Andy Murray's coach – the UK Pro League brings together the country's top professional players and runs across nine separate weeks from March to November.
The season-long competition involves players competing in a round robin format in eight individual qualifying weeks, with the weekend play-offs then giving them the chance to accumulate ranking points to seal qualification for November's Finals Week.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Dan Cox claimed third-place in the men’s competition after beating close friend Sean Hodkin 6-1 6-2.
The experienced Cox went down to Whitehouse in Saturday’s semi-finals but delivered an impressive display 24 hours later to scoop 12 valuable ranking points.
And the former world No.206, who competed in the first round of Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014, believes embracing the innovative UK Pro League format is the perfect way to catapult himself up the world tennis rankings.
The 30-year-old said: “This format is incredible for my game.
“I’m coming back and playing so many matches, so I’ll try and play as many of these as possible.”
In the women’s competition, Beth Grey bounced back from her late-night Saturday heartbreak to beat Alice Gillan 6-1 6-2 in her third-fourth place-play off.
Grey, the British No.20, twice surrendered a 5-1 lead against Maloney in her semi-final but put that setback behind her to claim 12 ranking points and take her overall tally to 27.
And the 25-year-old, who will not compete in Week 3 next month but return for Week 4 on April 19, said: “It was a great end to the week, especially after last night’s loss.
“I think I managed to bounce back really well today, just take one point at a time and wipe the slate clean, so it was good.”
With a prize fund of around £500k and Broadcast live on BT Sport, the UK Pro League is the only place where the British player group come together to compete across the full year.