Shaira Rivera bucked the odds and upended fourth seed Frances Santiago, 6-4, 6-3, to crash into the semifinal round of the ladies singles of the Palawan Pawnshop-Palawan Express Pera Padala Tuna Festival Open Tennis Championship at the Gen. Santos City Tennis Club in Gen. Santos City on Thursday.
Rivera, the 17-year-old star from Davao, leaned on her solid baseline game and superb court coverage to break Santiago in the opening frame then sustained her form to dominate the next and stay in title hunt in the top-level tournament tournament sponsored by the country’s leading pawnshop, remittance and claim center Palawan Pawnshop and presented by Slazenger.
But the veteran of the WTA Future Stars in Singapore will need more than breaks when she slugs it out with top seed Clarice Patrimonio for a spot in the finals of the event backed by Asiatraders Corp., exclusively distributor of Slazenger, the official ball.
Patrimonio also dished out top form to bundle out Patricia Velez, 6-1, 6-4, even as second seed Khim Iglupas stayed on track for another crack at the crown with a similar 6-1, 6-4 romp over Shary delos Santos in the lower half of the draw.
But Iglupas, winner of the recent Olivarez Cup, expects a tougher outing when she faces third seed Hannah Espinosa, who eased out Kathleney Arandia, 6-1, 6-0, for the other championship berth.
“It’s going to be an exciting semis series among the country’s top players with Rivera looming as the darkhorse,” said Palawan Pawnshop president/CEO Bobby Castro, who underscored his commitment to help promote the sport and at the same discover fresh talents from the countryside by putting up the year-long age-group circuit, spiced up by a number of Open tournaments.
Meanwhile, top seed Johnny Arcilla and No. 2 Patrick John Tierro trampled their respective rivals to join Ronard Joven and John Altiche in the quarterfinals of the men’s division.
Arcilla, seeking to avenge back-to-back losses to Tierro in the PCA Open, advanced with a 6-1(ret.) win over Bong Bagonon to arrange a Last 8 duel with Deo Talatayod, who held off Janus Ringia, 6-4, 6-4. Tierro, on the other hand, repulsed Roel Capangpangan for a quarters faceoff with Altiche.
No. 5 Leander Lazaro trounced Arthur Pantino. 6-3, 6-2, to seal a showdown with third seed Fritz Verdad, who scored a 6-0(ret.) win over Rollyto Litang while No. 8 Bryan Otico subdued Jose Pague, 6-4, 6-0, for a clash with fourth ranked Ronard Joven.
Meanwhile, the Tuna Festival is the first of three major Open tournaments on the PPS-PEPP calendar, the two others being the Pintaflores Festival Open on Oct. 31-Nov. 6 and the Dagitab Festival Open on December 18 to 22.