DAVIS Cup veteran Francis Casey Alcantara battled through a punishing first set to turn back gritty Liang Wen-Chun of Chinese Taipei, 7-6 (1), 6-1,Thursday to assure his spot in the quarterfinals of the 34th Philippine Columbian Association (PCA) Open-Cebuana Lhuillier ITF Men’s Futures 2 at the PCA clay courts in Paco, Manila.
The 23-year-old standout, who served six aces, admitted being a tad complacent going into the first set.
Luckily for the Australian Open juniors doubles champion, he managed to elevate his game just in time to overpower Liang in a match that took an hour and 23 minutes.
“Nung first set medyo relax lang kasi alam kong kaya. Nasobrahan sa relax, na-break niya ako pero naging patient ulit ako hanggang sa mag-error siya. Good thing, naunahan ko siya sa tiebreak. Same game plan ako sa second set, hindi ko na binago,” said Alcantara.
The Filipino earlier beat fifth seed Vinayak Sharma Kaza of India, 6-2, 7-6 (3),in the tournament supported by Cebuana Lhuillier, Puma, Dunlop, The Philippine Star, Head, Babolat, Compass/IMOSTI and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao.
Alcantara, a Cagayan de Oro native, now faces the difficult task of disposing top seed Enrique Lopez-Perez of Spain, who gave eight-time PCA Open champion Johnny Arcilla the boot, 6-4, 6-3.
“Laro lang, nothing to lose naman ako. Sana maging close fight. Sana maging maganda ang laro ko bukas. Malakas yung bola niya -- yung serve niya -- kaya depende na lang sa kundisyon niya at kundisyon ko come game day,” said Alcantara.
Lopez-Perez, who reached his highest ATP singles ranking at 207 early this year, expressed his excitement for the upcoming match.
“I didn’t know any player from the Philippines but I was surprised that they know how to play the game well. They are fighters. They are more passionate, more heart. Playing with him (Alcantara) will surely be tough. I’ll just play my game, I am fast and have more experience,” said the 24-year-old Spaniard.
Meantime, Japanese netter Katsuki Nagao shocked second pick Harry Bouchier of Australia, 6-3, 6-2, while Manila ITF Men’s Futures 1 champion Makoto Ochi continued his impressive streak at the expense of fellow Japanese Kazuya Tamura, 6-7 (1), 7-6 (2), 6-1, in the event supported by Whilpool/Fujidenzo, Broadway Motor Sales Corp. Coca-Cola Femsa Philippines, Tyrecorp Incorporated, Pearl Garden Hotel, Metro Global Holdings Corporation, Avida, PVL Restaurant, Mary Grace Foods, Inc., Seno Hardware and Wire Rope Corporation.
“I'm very happy with the exposure that our players are getting from these ITF Futures tournaments. This will help them in representing the country in future international team competitions such as Davis Cup, SEA Games and Asian Games,” expressed Cebuana Lhuillier President and CEO Jean Henri Lhuillier.
In men’s doubles, local bets Elbert Anasta and Patrick John Tierro jolted No. 2 seeds Kunal Anand and Vinayak Sharma Kaza of India, 6-4, 7-5, to advance into the quarterfinals.
Anasta and Tierro’s next match is a bittersweet one as they face fellow Filipino bets Arcilla and Alcantara for a spot in the semis.