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Davis Cup

Patrombon, Gonzales put Philippines to 2-0 lead over Kuwait

Slightly different team, same results

Singles standouts Jeson Patrombon and Ruben Gonzales powered he Philippine Davis Cup team to a 2-0 cushion against Kuwait after posting contrasting victories in Day 1 of the Davis Cup Group II Asia-Oceania first round tie, Friday at the Valle Verde Country Club in Pasig City.

Patrombon dominates Alawadhi, atones for last year’s defeat

J. Patrombon (PHI)666XX3
A. Alwhadhi (KUW)21XX

Aching to make amends from last year’s loss against Chinese Taipei in the second round, former juniors stalwart Patrombon bucked nerves to crush Kuwait’s Abdulrahman Alawadhi in the first set of the singles match, 6-0. Patrombon admitted, “actually, pressured ako ng kaunti, [nung] mga first few games.” Later on, the Filipino was able to dictate the pace of the frame, breaking the Kuwaiti’s serve after trailing at 15-0. After that long and arduous exchange, he was able to seal the first set with two successful forehand shots.

It was more of the same in the following set, as Patrombon continued to win the service games. Later on, Alawadhi was able to adjust himself against the Filipino’s service but had little answer to the variety of shots that the young Filipino fired towards him. The latter took the second set, 6-2.

With the match under his control, the 23-year old Filipino registered another great run in the third set. Even though the problems on his first delivery, stemming from the latter part of the second set, continued, Patrombon turned to his powerful ground strokes to consequently finish the points in his favor. “Tinuloy ko lang yung laro ko, di ko binigyan ng chance [yung kalaban],” he said. After the Kuwaiti committed two double faults in the fifth game and conceded the game to Patrombon at 4-1, the former juniors champion never looked back and closed out the set and the match at 6-1.

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After the match, Patrombon shared that he believes that he has not yet shown his full potential in the outing. He, however, attributed his improved play to his training and his competitions abroad. “Malaking tulong po yung training ko sa Taiwan. Galing [rin] ako sa China. Maganda naman yung result ko kahit talo ako sa first round,” he said. Patrombon also admitted that being exposed internationally helped his game grow since the level of play is at a higher plane outside of the country.

Gonzales outlasts Ghareeb, pulls off miracle comeback

R. Gonzales  (PHI)7^7616^653
M. Ghareeb (KUW)6^3267^85^R2

Taking the same court again as the second singles player, Ruben Gonzales attempted to replicate what he did a year ago against Sri Lanka. This time, however, the 30-year old would be denied of a straight-set victory in a marathon affair.

The top-ranked Kuwaiti player Mohammad Ghareeb made it difficult for Gonzales as they exchange service holds in the first set of their match. However, the game plan of the Filipino veteran, which was to “hit big serves and use my forehand” initially worked. With the match levelled at 4 games, Gonzales fired three straight unanswered services. He then chipped in a backhand winner to take the lead at 5-4. In the following service game, Gonzales tried to keep up the aggressiveness on serve, which almost backfired with a double fault. Nonetheless, it still paid off later in the gam, as two more service aces gave the Nationals the set, 7-3, at the tiebreak.

It was a different story in the second set as Gonzales breezed past Ghareeb. After trailing by one on the Kuwaiti’s serve, the Filipino romped to three straight games to take the lead. Ghareeb tried to be more courageous in adding more power to his ground strokes but only cost him several unforced errors. Gonzales only conceded points when he attempted to play short balls but failed. Gonzales, however, defended the strategy. “On the surface, it’s a good thing to make them run. It would not be good at first, but eventually it will [pile up].” He also said that he tried to mix it up so that he could manage his energy. Despite these small mistakes, the Filipino secured the second set with a more convincing 6-2 lead.

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However, just when the people in attendance thought the day would be over in a couple of minutes, Ghareeb mounted a comeback. His aggressive play was rewarded in the third set and was able to cut the match deficit to one set at 1-2. Kuwait took the early break of the serve with a Gonzales double fault and then managed to consolidate it for a 3-0 advantage in the third frame. The 35-year old ace then only allowed a service hold on the Filipino and emphatically sent the game to a fourth set with a service ace, 6-1.

Gonzales admitted that after the third set, he started to blame himself. He, however, thought, “If I could have just stayed ahead of him …” Nevertheless, it did not happen.

Despite Gonzales getting back his groove, Ghareeb pulled through in the fourth in yet another tiebreak. The set progressed with neither player dropping their service game. Fuelled by his last service game that forced the tiebreak, the Kuwaiti threatened to finish the extension after getting four straight points at 6-3. A Gonzales service winner and two forced errors on Ghareeb gave the Philippines some lease on life. The visitor capped off the set once more with another service ace and sent the match to a deciding set.

With momentum on his side, Ghareeb continued his impressive play and mounted a huge 4-1 advantage. However, the Gonzales ploy of managing his own energy and making his opponent exert his own suddenly showed its eventual result.

The Filipino veteran made a huge run towards the tailend after his service and forehand worked its magic once more. Fueled by the crowd in attendance, Gonzales piled up the points to eventually knot the game at four-games apiece. Ghareeb held on to what turned out to be his last service game to get into the cusp with a 5-4 lead. The Filipino took his own service game soon after to force an extended set at 5-all. With fatigue slowly creeping into Ghareeb, he felt a strain on his groin that, unfortunately, forced him to concede the set and the match to Gonzales and the Philippines.

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Gonzales credited the win to his persistence in saying, “I felt like I hanged on. It is something that I am known for and it helped me today,” he added. When asked about the result and his opponent, Gonzales felt sorry that the match had to end that way and he expressed his high regards toward how the 35-year old Kuwaiti played. “[But], that’s tennis,” he ended.

If the previous two matches are any indication of what world-class tennis is, the Filipinos are in for another treat on Saturday evening as the Philippines-Kuwait Davis Cup Group II Asia-Oceania tie continues with the doubles match. With the injury of Ghareeb, expect a change in the visitor’s nominated players. The Philippines can also replace their players as permitted by tournament rules.

Grew to appreciate various sports from tennis to judo. True-maroon kiddo since the new millennium. Fanboy. Singer. Occasional sports writer.

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