Ranah Stoiber & Marcus Walters crowned Lexus British Tour Masters champions
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The 2023 Lexus British Tour Masters culminated with titles for college tennis graduate Marcus Walters and Australian Open semi-finalist Ranah Stoiber at the weekend.
In the women’s final, top seed Stoiber completed a spotless week in Loughborough with a 6-1 6-0 defeat of 2023 Bonus Pool winner Ciara Moore.
Stoiber, 18, was the most experienced competitor in a women’s field made up entirely of teenagers, and navigated her five matches – including three group stage clashes – without dropping a set.
The world no. 745 was tested by Isabella Walker’s baseline resilience in the early stages of their 6-3 6-1 semi-final on Saturday morning, and 16-year-old Moore - who had compiled four British Tour titles this season – held serve to open their final showdown. But Stoiber’s own serve and versatile forehand provided the foundation for moments of genius court craft as she soared to an impressive straight sets triumph.
“I thought it was a pretty good match from me,” the top seed reflected on the final. “I really was able to zone in and get the job done, so I’m really happy with my performance.”
Of her tournament as a whole, she commented: “I knew I had to be ready for anything, because people would come in with no pressure and give it their all, so I had to make sure there weren’t too many drop-offs - or no drop-offs at all – [from me] and I managed. I’ve been most pleased with my belief in my game every time I stepped on court.”
Stoiber, who made the quarter-finals of the 2022 US Open and the last four at the 2023 Australian Open, also reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon and finished her four-year stint at the LTA National Academy in Loughborough this Summer.
“The four years I was here I’ve seen myself develop so much, and going into training trying to improve all the time has really helped me,” she assessed. “I think [with] short term goals, I’m just trying to get my ranking up as much as possible, as quick as possible. I’ll just try and trust my game and see what happens.”
In the men’s final, it was a battle of the single-handed backhands as 25-year-old Walters avenged his group stage defeat to fellow Nottinghamshire player Phoenix Weir.
After losing the opening 12 points of the match, the No.2 seed looked on course to spoil Walters’ party once again as he fired up his big serve and forehand to claim a 7-6(4) opening set.
But third seed Walters saved break points to hold the longest game of the match in set two, immediately breaking through himself for a 3-2 advantage. His hand skills and strong first serve percentage saw him level the match and open up a 5-1 lead in the champions tie-break. Weir played fearless aggressive tennis from 9-6 down, but a third match point on Walters’ own serve was enough to get the job done: 6-7(4) 6-4 10-8.
“It was a great win, a very close win,” the 25-year-old said. “A few nerves crept in at the end, having lost to him yesterday in a tiebreak, so I was really wanting to win this one. He played really well, he had a great week, but luckily I managed to sneak through.”
A Florida State University graduate in 2021, Walters initially stayed in America working as a coach before beginning his pursuit of a pro career in earnest in the Spring of this year.
“I’m looking to play a lot of ITFs starting in January, travelling a lot, so this prize money’s really gonna help me travel abroad,” Walters shared. “I’m going to try and get my ATP ranking up as high as possible. Obviously going to be playing the British Tours too to be getting good prize money and I’ll try to pursue my tennis career from there. This is a great start leading into it, so I’m really excited.”
Walters lifts the Lexus British Tour Masters trophy exactly ten years on from his namesake Marcus Willis accomplishing the same feat. Willis famously went on to win through the pre-qualifying and qualifying events at Wimbledon in 2016, eventually falling to Roger Federer in the second round of the main draw.
“That’s the dream - it’s every tennis player’s dream, and I think it’s definitely something that I feel like I can do,” Walters said of Willis’ run. “I mean if he can do it, I can do it. So why not - I’ll give it a shot!”
Tournament Director, Richard Joyner, commented "We’ve had a great 3 days of tennis, particularly with 2 of the 4 groups going down to the wire in terms of the top 2 qualifying. Both men’s finalists emerged. from their group on percentage of games won! Ball crew together with courtside seating on final’s day also added to the occasion for the players. Congratulations to Ranah and Marcus for winning the 2023 titles, plus Ciara Moore and Marcus for finishing top of the Lexus British Tour leaderboard after the 33 events staged during the year."