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The Philippine team swept Sri Lanka in three matches after Day 2, 3-0, to advance them into the next round of the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Zone Group II action, last Saturday, at the Valle Verde Country Club in Pasig City.
Alcantara and Huey buck slow start, wins it for RP
|F. Alcantara/T. Huey (PHI)||3||6||6||6||–||3|
|S. Dissanayake/ D. Thangarajah (SRI)||6||3||2||4||–||1|
Davis Cup veteran, Treat Huey and young gun, Francis Casey Alcantara, took the court for the doubles match to represent the Nationals against Sharmal Dissanayake and Dineshkhantan Thangarajah, who was nominated to play in lieu of the injured Harshana Godamanna.
Huey and Alcantara had a promising start, taking the first points of the opening set, but it was Dissanayake and Thangarajah who won the first game. The Filipinos came back to level the set after they broke the Sri Lankan service. The visitors would go on to show their mettle as they raced to a 3-1 lead. The Sri Lankans did not look back and took the opening set, 6-3.
In the second set, Thangarah started to have difficulties placing his serves. After a 30-all deadlock, the Philippines scored on a winner to move to an early break of serve. The guests ended their struggle and held on to their serve by winning the next three points. Former Australian Open juniors doubles champion, Alcantara had similar problems on his service game. The Sri Lankans threatened to break with a winner of Dissanayake, but the Filipino ace took care of the game with his well-placed serves. The Nationals went on to get the first break of the game and consolidated it when Huey served to love, 3-1. The RP tandem carried on with that solitary break of serve to win the set, 6-3, and tied the match at 1 set-apiece.
The momentum had slowly shifted to the Philippine side early in the third set. After Sri Lanka held on their first service game of the set, the Philippines tied it once more by holding their own serve. The 18-year-old Dissanayake had problems on his serve in the third set. After 30-15 count on his serve, the Sri Lankan committed a double fault, and lost the following point. Three more double faults from Sri Lanka gave away the game to the Philippines, and Huey and Alcanatara now led, 2-1 in the third. The Philippines swept the next three games to pull away, 5-1, giving only four points to the visitors mostly on double faults as the Nationals went on to aggressive service play. It turned productive on the eighth game when they caused problems to the Sri Lankans and ended the set, 6-2, to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
Riding on the wave, the hosts went on to a 2-0 lead in the fourth, when they swept the first two games to love. Huey and Alcantara continued with their great all-around game as they both served well and patrolled the net with much anticipation. Dissanayake and Thangarajah continued to have problems on their serve. With the Philippines leading 4-1, Dissnayake had three more double faults to put the game on deuce. A winner by Huey and another double fault gave the 5-2 lead to the Philippines.
Needing just a game to get the Philippines into the semis, Alcantara went to his serve to finish the match. A forced error off Thangarajah gave the Philippines a match point. The Philippines failed to close the Sri Lankans, as the visitor retaliated with timely winners to keep themselves in the tie. The substitute Thangarajah made it count in the next game to cut the deficit to 1, 4-5. The Nationals would not be denied, however, with Huey on serve and Alcantara manning the net, they finished the last game to love to win the set and the match, 6-4.
When asked about the team last year, Huey shared that it was a great experience but they are a better team now. The team played well because of their good rapport as a unit. He exclaimed, “All of us are good friends, we enjoy playing together.” In regards to the match, the veteran shared that there was indeed anxiety going up against Sri Lanka with the most recent tie against Pakistan in mind. The Nationals were at a similar situation leading 2-0, but it was the South Asians who went on to the promotional playoff after sweeping the last three rubbers. “Every year it’s tough no matter who you play. They obviously want to win too.” The most senior of the team, however, lauded each of the members of the squad who won all their respective matches to clinch the tie.
Recalling what happened in the match, both Huey and Alcantara shared that they were having problems during the first set. The tandem also gave the credit to the Sri Lankans. “Those guys [from Sri Lanka] played well,” said Alcantara. The former juniors standout said that in the second set they were able to do the adjustments. “Nag-loosen up kami, and we started playing our game also.” Alcantara shared his frustration on not being able to close out the match. “I was trying to, pero they were hitting winners eh. They were lucky, too. We couldn’t really do anything about it.” But when they had another chance to close it out, “we just played to our strengths.”
With the win, the Philippines moves on to the second round of the group and will be facing Chinese Taipei on July 17-19 in Taiwan.
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