Brighton's rising tennis star Sonay Kartal - with staggering Emma Raducanu head to head record - takes Pro League title
Emma Raducanu blazed the UK Pro League trail and just over 12 months later, newly-crowned champion Sonay Kartal says she can follow in her superstar tennis footsteps.
Kartal, 20, emulated US Open winner Raducanu, 19, by clinching the UK Pro League title in Shrewsbury on Sunday night.
The south coast star swatted aside Freya Christie – ranked over 300 places above her – 6-0, 6-1 in rapid time to further enhance her reputation as one of British tennis’ most exciting young prodigies and claim a cool £15,000 prize pot.
Kartal, who stormed to consecutive titles in Weeks five, six and seven of the competition, grew up playing against Raducanu and remarkably boasts a winning record – 6-5 – against the Bromley hotshot.
And after succeeding Raducanu in claiming the coveted UK Pro League crown in its second season, the world No.989 said: “I’m really going to try and continue this form.
“I’ve had a lot of injuries in the past, so I’ve really capitalised on the UK Pro League.
“You’re guaranteed five matches, so the format for me has been really beneficial, and it’s something that I’m definitely going to continue on next year.
“I’m very grateful for all that’s been put on this year.
“I didn’t practice too well earlier so I was a little bit nervous coming out, but I just tried to forget the occasion and play my own game.
“The highlights for me have been that I’ve managed to keep a pretty consistent game throughout this whole week. I did lose to Katie [Stresnakova] in the last round of the groups, but I think I’ve taken some good match practice from the experience.
“I’m off to Tunisia for another event next week, so I’ll be looking to bring my form out there.”
Nine individual qualifying weeks culminated in UK Pro League Finals Week, where the country's top professionals descended on Shropshire to duel it out for the men's and women's trophies.
Raducanu, 17 at the time, credited her UK Pro Series title in Weybridge last August for laying the foundations for her ascent to the Grand Slam summit.
She breezed past Jodie Burrage in Surrey and has embarked on an inexorable upwards trajectory across a thrilling 12 months - culminating in being crowned queen of Flushing Meadows on that storied Saturday night back in the UK.
Kartal, from Brighton, won three weeks on the spin of this year’s competition before turning it on when it mattered to grab Finals Week glory.
She stunned Lily Miyazaki – the world No.215 – in the quarter-finals in a tie-break, experienced Beth Grey – ranked over 500 places above her – in the semis and made light work of Christie, the world No.628, in Sunday afternoon’s showpiece.
In the men’s competition, it was fellow 20-year-old star Anton Matusevich who claimed the trophy after beating Henry Patten, 25, in similarly decisive fashion.
World No.422 Matusevich stormed to the Finals Week title without dropping a set and did not lose a match in the competition since the Week 1 semi-finals.
He racked up a remarkable first serve win percentage of 93 per cent against Patten as the powerful left-hander from Suffolk was left with nowhere to hide.
And Sevenoaks star Matusevich, who stormed to the Week 2 and 3 titles in qualifying, said: “I’m very pleased with that, as that second set was getting heated.
“Me and my coaches back at home have worked a lot on my third ball – the shot after the serve. My serve is not like Nick Kyrgios and I don’t really hit too many aces, but it’s the shot behind it that’s very important.
“We’ve worked a lot on that in the past – and it’s proven to be very key here.
“I just wanted to get some matches in this week and really improve my game.”
PLEASE LEAVE IN FINAL PAR – With a prize fund of around £500k and Broadcast live on BT Sport, FreeSports The Tennis Channel and UKproleague.tv, the UK Pro League is the only place where the British player group come together to compete across the full year.