By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
WHILE as expected they found the going tough against Greece in their World Group II Davis Cup tie at the weekend, still the Filipino netters savored the opportunity to play against top talent and gauge where they are at.
Faced world no. 6-ranked player Stefanos Tsitsipas and his Greek squad, the Philippines saw its Davis Cup push derailed, losing, 3-1, in the two-day tie from March 6 to 7 at the Philippine Columbian Association’s Plaza Dilao courts in Paco, Manila.
Mr. Tsitsipas proved to be a huge torn on the side of the Filipinos as the world top 10 player set the tone for Greece in the competition, winning the first game for his team on Friday and then notched the tie-clinching victory on Saturday.
Twenty-one-year-old Tsitsipas overwhelmed the Philippines’ AJ Lim, 6-2, 6-1, in the opening match in the tie then smashed the hopes of the Filipinos by beating Jeson Patrombon, 6-2, 6-1, to complete their 3-1 conquest of the host and advance to the next phase of the Davis Cup.
“We know they are tough especially with a world-class player like Stefanos Tsitsipas. But we will do our best to make the country proud,” said Team Philippines member Francis Casey Alcantara in the lead-up to the competition.
And it was a thrust that the Filipinos took to heart, giving their all despite the odds even managing to claim a victory in the doubles event, care of Mr. Alcantara and Ruben Gonzales.
Drawing inspiration from the hometown fans and knowing that their backs were against the wall, the Alcantara-Gonzales tandem dug deep and got the better of the Greek duo of Petros Tsitsipas and Markos Kalovelonis, 7-6 (5), 6-4, to infuse life back to what the then flickering hopes of the Philippines.
“The atmosphere was electric, the crowd gave us the energy we needed to get this win,” said Mr. Gonzales of their gallant stand.
“We were trailing in the second set but the crowd willed us to fight back,” Mr. Alcantara, who won the doubles gold in the 30th Southeast Asian Games last December, meanwhile, said.
The celebration for the Filipinos was short-lived though as Mr. Tsitsipas finished things off in the next match.
With the loss, the Philippines fell back to Asia and Oceania Regional Group III where it will attempt anew to go back to World Group II later this year.
The showdown with the Greeks marked the first time that the Filipinos tackled a non-Asian nation since they battled the Swedes in the World Cup qualifier in 1991.