BACK-TO-BACK CHAMPION. Arthur Craig Pantino (left) holds his trophy after winning the singles title at the ITF China Junior 8 tournament in Beijing on Saturday. Beside him is coach Jun Toledo, a former Philippine Davis Cupper. (Contributed photo)
MANILA -- Top seed Arthur Craig Pantino collected his second straight singles title after winning the China Junior 8 tournament in Beijing on Saturday.
The 18-year-old player from Ormoc City in Leyte province scored a 7-5, 6-3 victory over third seed Kasidit Samrej of Thailand in their championship showdown at the Potter's Wheel International Center.
Pantino, the country's No. 1 junior, downed fourth seed Ryuhei Azuma of Japan, 6-3, 6-4, to reach the semifinal while Samrej won over seventh seed Han-Chih Lin of Chinese Taipei, 6-4, 6-3.
In the doubles category, top seeds Pantino and Azuma settled for runner-up honors after losing to second seeds Samrej and Romain Faucon of Belgium, 5-7, 6-7 (2), in the final.
Pantino won his first singles title this year at the 3rd KL International Junior Championship that was held in Malaysia on April 16-21.
Seeded second in the tournament, Pantino outplayed fourth pick Dev Javia of India, 6-4, 6-3, in their title duel at the National Tennis Centre outdoor hard court.
Pantino is currently No. 87 in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) world juniors rankings after earning a total of 457.5 points (combined singles and doubles).
Aside from the title win in Malaysia, Pantino's singles performances in India (runner-up), Chinese Taipei (semifinals) and China (quarterfinals) helped improve his rankings.
His six best doubles results include a runner-up finish in India (J2), semifinal stints in China (J12) and India, and reaching the quarterfinal round in Japan (Grade A) and China (J14).
In January 2018, Pantino joined the Hong Kong International Tennis Federation (ITF) Juniors Championships where he won the doubles title with Thailand's Kasidit Samrej.
Pantino won his first ITF Juniors title in November 2017, beating compatriot John Bryan Otico in the final of the Phinma-PSC International Juniors 2 at the Manila Polo Club indoor clay court in Makati City.
Pantino also won back-to-back doubles titles in the two-leg tournament organized by the Philippine Tennis Association. He won the second leg title with Otico while he teamed up with Michael Francis Eala in the first leg.
Pantino teamed up with Beibit Zhukayev of Kazakhstan to win the 1st ITF Perlis Junior Championships in Malaysia in October 2017.
Pantino studies at the Seibo College in Malabon City. He is mentored by Jun Toledo, a former Davis Cupper who is now working at the Philippine Tennis Academy (PTA).
The PTA is headed by long-time tennis patron Romeo Chan, who has supported many former national players, among them Bobbie Angelo and Camoy Palahang, SEA Games and Fed Cup veteran Khim Iglupas; Davis Cup player John Bryan Otico and promising players Shaira Hope Rivera, Bliss Bayking, and Sydney Ezra Enriquez. (PNA)