Arthur Pantino fought back from an opening set setback, dominated Bryan Otico in the next before rallying in the decider to hack out a 5-7, 6-0, 6-3 victory and snare the Phinma-PSC Juniors Tennis Championships Week 2 boys’ singles crown at the Manila Polo Club in Forbes Park on Sunday.
Pantino blew a huge lead in the opening frame but went on an attack mode in the second set then fought back from 0-2, 2-3 deficits in the decider to complete the come-from-behind victory over his fellow Philippine Tennis Academy standout and top seeded rival.
The victory thus made up for the No. 3 University of San Carlos-Cebu ace’s straight-set defeat to Japanese Shunsuke Matsui in last week’s finale of the two-week Group 4 ITF (International Tennis Federation) 18-and-under event sponsored by the Philippine Investment Management Consultants (Phinma) and Technifiber.
“I saw he was getting tired so I took a chance and hit my shots,” said Pantino, who also flashed his stamina as he survived a third straight three-set triumph after bundling out Japanese Ryota Ishii, 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-3, in the quarters and then getting back at Mitsui, 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-0, in last Saturday’s Final Four of the event sanctioned by the Philippine Tennis Association (Philta) and backed by Technifiber as official ball and the Philippine Sports Commission.
Otico, who racked up a series of straight-set victories to set up a title clash with Pantino, looked headed for scoring a follow-up to his stunning PCA Open victory last week after taking the opening frame. But he failed to neutralize Pantino’s strong fightback in the second and lost steam in the decider, enabling the Cebuano find to record his biggest win in a young career.
Punnin Kovapitukted shared the spotlight as the No. 2 seed Thai ace turned back the seventh ranked Saki Oyama of Japan, 6-4, 7-5, to pocket the girls’ singles diadem.
Pantino actually completed a sweep of Week 2 as he teamed up with Otico to beat Japanese Kei Manaka and Taiyo Yamanaka, 6-3, 6-4, in the doubles finals.
Local bet Shaira Rivera also nailed her first ITF junior win as she partnered with Week I singles runner-up Elizabeth Stevens to down Kovapitukted and Oyama for the girls’ doubles crown.