PH drops opening Davis Cup singles

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GAME TODAY
6 p.m.—Huey/Alcantara vs Daniell/Venus

LAPU-LAPU CITY—The night fell hard on Cebuana Lhuillier-Philippine Davis Cup team last night.

Ruben Gonzales wasted a matchpoint and a 4-3 lead in the fourth-set tiebreak as New Zealand’s indefatigable Michael Venus came away with a 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-0 win for a 1-0 lead in their Asia Oceania Group 2 final at Plantation Bay Resort and Spa here.

Johnny Arcilla was trying to even things up in an uphill battle against New Zealand top player Jose Statham in the second opening rubber at presstime.

It was a battle of endurance as well as game plans between Gonzales and Venus, who locked horns for four hours, starting when the sun was still up and ending under a dark night sky.

Gonzales tried to slow things down and extend rallies, hoping to frustrate and tire out Venus. But the Kiwi refused to budge and instead served-and-volleyed his way out of trouble.

Venus wiggled his way from a Gonzales match point at 5-4, 40-30, with a forehand winner. Gonzales next returned wide and Venus slammed a service winner for 5-5.

They then held serves to force tiebreak, where Gonzales even led 4-2. But Venus clawed back by firing baseline shots and zipping approach shots past Gonzales to silence the beach-going crowd.

A dejected Gonzales refused to immediately talk to reporters.

Gonzales actually started hot, showing a lot of bounce in dominating the first set. He broke Venus’ serve for 3-2 using a variety of shots, including drops that appeared to tire out the 6-foot-3 Kiwi.

The 25-year-old Venus, ranked No. 372, looked frustrated and employed extra power as he tried to get as much bounce from the clay surface, which was drenched by overnight rains.

But things made a turnaround in the second set as Venus finally broke the Filipino top player for a 4-2 lead. He was up 0-40 after a linesman called Gonzales’ forehand return wide when it clearly nicked the line.

Gonzales, the highest ranked Filipino in singles at 933, struggled to hold serve even as he limped through Venus’ passing shots. Gonzales was hurting from a tightened hamstring, but he still came out strong in the third set breaking at love in the ninth game to take the set.

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