LAPU LAPU CITY—Johnny Arcilla employed his trademark slow-play that worked wonders on an already slow court to give the Cebuana Lhuillier-Philippine Davis Cup team a 1-0 lead over Syria last night in a rain-delayed match at the shell-clay courts of Plantation Bay Spa and Resort.
Reining in his shots and keeping the ball low, Arcilla frustrated Syria’s top player Issam Taweel, 6-4, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2, to give the hosts a rousing start in the Asia Oceania Group 2 tie.
Ruben Gonzales, listed as the Philippines No. 1 player, was locked in battle against Marc Abdelnuor at presstime.
“I just tried to extend the rallies and slowed it down because I saw that he wants to make quick kills,” said Arcilla in Filipino. “(Nonplaying team captain) Roland Kraut told me that if can keep my pace, it’s going to be mine.”
Arcilla, who has not lost a Davis Cup match in five outings, was clearly in charge throughout the two-and-a-half-hour match that was halted by rain for 20 minutes early in the first set, just when the Butuan City native and seven-time PCA Open singles titlist was getting his rhythm.
Taweel, who towers over the 32-year-old Arcilla at 6-foot-1, tried to impose his serve-and-volley game which fell flat against the slippery surface and an opponent who dished out fancy drop shots from the baseline and made sliding dashes to the net.
Younger and stronger, the 23-year-old Taweel broke Arcilla for a 2-0 in the opening set which silenced the full-packed gallery that two years ago witnessed how Japan and Chinese Taipei drubbed the PH Cuppers here.
But Arcilla latched on and slowed down the pace to break the Syrian in the third game and again in the 7th en route to the first set win that restored his confidence roused the crowd that included a large group of uniformed schoolchildren cheering at the sidelines.
The event, sponsored by Cebuana Lhuillier, Smart Sports, Yonex, Jober Electronics, PSC and Philippine Daily Inquirer as media partner, can be viewed on YouTube via Philippine Tennis channel and Philta Facebook page.
“I relaxed in the second set at 4-1 because I thought I already had it secured,” added Arcilla.