Cebuana Lhuillier-Philippine Davis Cup team swept the opening singles against Kuwait after an emphatic win by Jeson Patrombon and a shocking, dramatic victory by Ruben Gonzales Friday night at Valle Verde Country Club.
Patrombon cruised to a 6-0, 6-2, 6-1 win over No. 2 player Abdulrahman Alawadhi to give the country a morale-boosting start in the tie. It all appeared that the Filipinos would end Day 1 with an easy sweep of the rubbers, until Kuwait’s 35-year-old top player Mohammad Ghareeb tried to make a fight and came back from two sets down.
But the visitor’s top gun cramped and gave up with the fifth set tied at 5-5 for Gonzales’ 7-6 (7-2), 6-2, 1-6, 6-7 (8-6), 5-5 retired after a roller-coaster match that lasted four hours.
Treat Huey and Francis Casey Alcantara will try to clinch the Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie in Saturday’s doubles against Ghareeb and Abdulhamin Mubarak at 6 p.m.
Team manager Jean Henri Lhuillier said Patrombon just showed that he deserves his place in the team.
“It is their time (Patrombon and Francis Casey Alcantara), it’s changing of the guards and they have to accept the task ahead,” said Lhuillier who is supporting the PH campaign along with Cebuana Lhuillier, Philippine Sports Commission and Yonex.
Gonzales trailed 4-1 in the fifth set when it all appeared that he lost it all. But the long day tolled on Ghareeb who hugged his coach at the sidelines and declared he could no longer go on.
Gonzales stormed to two sets to none lead in the second singles, but inexplicably lost traction allowing Ghareeb to come back into the game winning third easily after an early break.
The fourth set was on serve but saw the Kuwaiti getting stronger and stronger, acing his way to force the tiebreak.
The 30-year-old Gonzales trailed 3-6 in the tiebreak but gained back the momentum when he lobbed an winner and Ghareeb dumped twice, one wide and one to the net.
But things suddenly shifted when Gonzales hit an outbalanced overhead shot that fell short, before the 35-year-old warrior, who once lost a tight 7-6, 6-4 decision to Roger Federer, aced to forge the deciding fifth set.
Though he admitted feeling the jitters in the first points of the first set, Patrombon hardly showed it as he overwhelmed Abdulrahman Alawadhi to give the country a morale-boosting start.
“I felt that it’s not yet my top game, only 60 percent probably,” said the 22-year-old Patrombon in Filipino after the one hour, 30 minutes match that saw him setting the tone of the match with power and smarts.
Patrombon, who has been training in Chinese Taipei and just came from ITF Futures in China, wasn’t threatened in the match, facing break point only thrice: once in the first set, and twice in the second when he was way ahead in games.
“I saw that he’s not very comfortable with rallies so I was holding my attacks longer,” said Patrombon who indeed engaged Alawadhi in lengthy exchanges before exploding with crosscourt winners.
The Iligan-based Patrombon, former World juniors No. 9, also didn’t waste shots, tracking down the ball as though he’s trailing and firing highly charged forehands against an otherwise strong opponent.
“He is strong and I was expecting him to go all out,” added Patrombon who has won his fourth Davis Cup victory in three ties.
Still Lhuillier said it’s not over yet. “We have seen it a few times that we take 2-0 lead to lose, but Jeson’s win today set the tone for the Philippines.”