MANILA — Cebuano Arthur Craig Pantino pulled off a 5-7, 6-0, 6-3 victory over top seed John Bryan Otico on Sunday to lift the boys’ singles trophy in the Phinma-PSC International Juniors 2 at the Manila Polo Club indoor clay court in Makati City.
The girls’ singles title went to second seed Punnin Kovapitukted of Thailand, who defeated seventh-ranked Saki Oyama, 6-4, 7-5, in the final.
It was a sweet victory for Pantino, who eliminated last week’s singles champion, Japanese Shunsuke Mitsui, in the semifinal to arrange an all-Filipino title duel in the Grade 4 event sanctioned by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the world-governing body in the sport.
“I am happy to win my first ITF Juniors title here in the Philippines,” said the 16-year old Pantino, who has improved his world juniors rankings to No. 342.
When asked to describe the final match, Pantino said, “it was really tough and intense because Bryan was playing well. But when I saw that he was getting tired, I took the chance.”
Pantino also won back-to-back doubles titles in the two-leg tournament organized by the Philippine Tennis Association (Philta). He teamed up with Otico to beat Japanese Kei Manaka and Taiyo Yamanaka, 6-3, 6-4, in the final last Saturday, and won last week’s crown with compatriot Michael Francis Eala.
Last month, Pantino won the doubles title with Beibit Zhukayev of Kazakhstan in Perlis, Malaysia.
Otico, on the other hand, skipped the first leg of the Phinma-PSC tournament to compete in the Philippine Columbian Association (PCA) Open where he took the men’s singles title.
Otico, who is No. 130 in the world juniors rankings, now has four doubles titles since he started competing in the ITF Juniors Circuit in 2013. He won the Asian Junior Championships in Pune, India (June) and the China Juniors 8 in Beijing (May) with Japanese Seita Watanabe.
Otico also has three juniors singles titles, the last one he won at the PTT-ITF Juniors in Nonthaburi, Thailand in June. His other victories were at the Hong Kong ITF Juniors in January 2017 and the Vietnam ITF Juniors in Ho Chi Minh in July 2015.
Meanwhile, Pantino hopes to earn more points to be able to compete in Grand Slam tournaments.
“My ambition is to play in the grand slams as soon as possible but in order to do that, I should perform well on lower grade tournaments to raise my ranking,” said Pantino, a grade 9 student under Seibo College’s home-study program.
Pantino and Otico are members of the Philippine Tennis Academy (PTA) headed by tennis patron Romeo Chan, who has supported many national players like ex-Davis Cuppers Bobbie Angelo and Camoy Palahand.
Jun Toledo, who also played for the Philippine Davis Cup team, is the head coach of PTA, which is based in Alabang, Muntinlupa. He is assisted by Kenneth Salvo.
“The PTA is really a good training ground and junior players will learn a lot of things. The academy doesn’t only teach tennis but also teaches us good manners and discipline,” said Pantino, who has been under Toledo for the past six years.
PTA’s other students are national player Khim Iglupas, Shaira Hope Rivera, Bliss Bayking and Sydney Ezra Enriquez.