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Mitsui repels Pantino, claims Phinma crown

Japanese Shunuke Mitsui and Nicole Hammond hold their trophies as they pose with the other top finishers in Week 1 of the ITF Phinma Junior Championships.

MANILA, Philippines — Japanese Shunuke Mitsui lived up to his top billing as he downed second seed Arthur Pantino, 6-1, 6-3, yesterday to clinch the boys’ title in the Phinma-PSC Juniors Tennis Championships Week I at the Manila Polo Club in Forbes Park.

Mitsui, who downed Indonesian No. 4 Odeda Arazza, 6-1, 6-1, in the semis, was all business from the start, dominating the opening set and then rallying from a 1-3 deficit in the next to seal the victory and his first Grade 4 title.

“I was hitting my backhand and attacking a lot,” said Mitsui, ranked 261st in the world by the International Tennis Federation.

On his way to the crown, Mitsui conceded just a total of 11 games in this weeklong Group 4 ITF 18-and-under event sponsored by the Philippine Investment Management Consultants (Phinma) and Technifiber and sanctioned by the Philippine Tennis Association (Philta).

Pantino, a 16-year-old University of San Carlos student, gave Mitsui a scare in the second set when the former took a 3-1 lead to the delight of the big weekend crowd.

But Mitsui regained his bearing and rhythm and took the last five points, the match and the crown.

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“I was a little nervous in the first set because pressure got to me playing in the home crowd,” said Pantino, who was born in Ormoc, Leyte but grew up in Cebu.

Pantino, a Grade Two semifinalist in China and a Grade Five finalist in Vietnam last year, somehow atoned for the setback as he teamed up with Michael Eala to beat Japanese Kei Manaka and Taiyo Yamanaka, 6-2, 6-2, to grab the doubles crown.

In the girls’ section, Nicole Hammond bested fellow American Elizabeth Stevens, 6-1, 6-4, to clinch the crown. The duo earlier trampled Chinese Li Jingyi and Tian Fangran, 6-3, 6-4, for the doubles triumph.

Meanwhile, Week 2 of the ITF ranking event fires off tomorrow with the last of the two-day qualifiers held today, also at the MPC, according to tournament director Chris Cuarto with Malaysian Razmee Rawi as the tournament referee.

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