THE CEBUANA Lhuillier-Philippine Davis Cup team suffered a big blow after Chinese Taipei swept the opening singles matches Friday for a 2-0 lead over the host at Philippine Columbian Association shell courts.
Taiwanese top player Ti Chen edged Ruben Gonzales, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2, 6-2, before Huang Liang-chi outlasted a cramping Francis Casey Alcantara, 6-1, 3-6, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 1-0 (retired) in the second match.
Alcantara was leading, 4-2 in the third set but allowed Huang to force a tiebreak that the 24-year-old Filipino narrowly won. But he was never the same again as he asked for medical timeout at 4-1 in fourth set due to cramps on left calf.
He eventually threw in the towel in the first game of the deciding set to give the visitors the edge in the meet sponsored by Cebuana Lhuillier, Philippine Sports Commission, Yonex and Toby’s Sports.
Now the Philippines will have to rely on doubles pair of Treat Huey and Jeson Patrombon to stay alive in the Asia/Oceania Group 2 semifinal tie.
Chen, ranked No. 226 in singles and 140th in doubles, was in superb form even in over-hot conditions and on the slippery shell court surface to give the Taiwanese a 1-0 edge in the Asia/Oceania Group 2 semifinal tie.
“He played good, the credit goes to him as well,” said the 30-year-old Gonzales who was born and raised in Terre Haute, Indiana. “There were opportunities but I could not capitalise on them.”
For a while back there, Gonzales appeared to have an antidote against the Taiwanese who was very consistent in his power baseline game.
The Filipino tied the match two sets all by employing an aggressive game.
“Shot for shot and experience wise, we can’t match Chen,” admitted non-playing captain Karl Santamaria. “So we felt that we really had to try something. And for a while it was working.”
But the handwork tolled on Gonzales who started to grow tired and committed costly errors.
“I didn’t really panicked much (during the third set) but I felt that he was low-balling me to death,” said Gonzales who also became increasingly frustrated and even throw his racket after a return shot that went long.
“We had a game plan. And I kept telling Ruben you have to win the first few points of every game or the game itself. Otherwise it makes Chen very comfortable,” added Santamaria.
Indeed, the 32-year-old Chen felt at home and was never threatened from there on. He led 5-0 in the fourth set breaking in the second and fourth games and holding at love in the fifth.