Gonzales forces rubber, but Huey loses
By REY BANCOD
LAPU-LAPU CITY – Ruben Gonzales forced a deciding singles match Sunday night, but Treat Conrad Huey could not capitalize as Cebuana Lhuillier Philippines bowed to New Zealand, 2-3, in their Davis Cup Asia Oceania tie at the Plantation Bay Spa and Resort.
Gonzales, drawing energy from the boisterous crowd, outlasted Jose Rubin Statham, 7-6 (2), 4-6, 1-6, 7-5, 8-6, in a match that lasted six hours, including a one-and-a-half hour rain delay.
Emotion ran high during and after the match as a tennis official figured in verbal and shoving matches with officials of the visiting team.
But in a text message sent the following day, Randy Villanueva, vice-president of the Philippine Tennis Association (PTA), said he has patched up differences with NZ non-playing captain Alistar Hunt and agreed not to aggravate matters further.
Gonzales won the first set via tiebreaker, but dropped the next two sets as Statham took advantage of the Filipino’s inconsistent backhand to pile up points.
Statham, crafty and consistent, dominated the third set, attacking Gonzales’ backhand repeatedly. He raced to a 5-0 lead and served out the set at love after Gonzales managed to win one game.
The 28-year-old Filipino saved another breakpoint at the start of the fourth set and had two chances to break Statham in the next game.
Statham, however, parried the threat by winning four straight points.
Rain suspended play with Gonzales up, 3-2, and Statham serving at 15-all.
The rain delay gave Gonzales a much-needed respite, although Statham broke him in the fifth.
With the Kiwi serving out the match, Gonzales caught fire, rattling of three straight points to draw level at 5-all.
Gonzales, going for broke in every shot, finally ended Statham’s resistance in the 13th game, giving up only a single point on the Kiwi’s serve.
While Gonzales raised his arms in triumph, a frustrated Statham slammed the ball in frustration, drawing a warning from the game referee.
“Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat,” said Gonzales, fighting off tears.
The emotional win came two days after Gonzales failed to convert a match point and dropped a five-set decision to Michael Venus.
“Hindi ako makatulog after that loss,” Gonzales revealed.
The Filipino celebration, however, was short-lived.
Huey, tapped to replace Johnny Arcilla, ran out of energy against Venus, 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 1-6, 3-6, in a match that ended at 2 a.m. Sunday.
On Saturday, the left-handed Huey teamed up with Francis Casey Alcantara to win the doubles against Artem Sitak and Marcus Daniell in straight sets.
But while Huey had the skills and experience to defeat Venus, his lack of singles play took its toll on the Fil-American.
With the hard-earned victory, the Kiwis were promoted to Group I while the Filipinos remained in Group II.