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Start fit for a King

Justin Marville

Start fit for a King

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EVEN THE HEAVENS couldn’t rain on Barbados’ parade.
Or Darian King’s coming-out party.
Intermittent showers might’ve delayed the hosts’ Davis Cup campaign, but not before King dampened Paraguay’s spirits, as Barbados gained a crucial lead in the historic Group II tie following his routine 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory in yesterday’s opening singles at the Wildey Tennis Centre.
The straight-sets victory over Juan Crosa – King’s ninth in 13 Davis Cup matches – was the story of a somewhat gloomy day set back by showers that forced the postponement of the Haydn Lewis-Daniel Lopez encounter, which the former led two sets to none.
Lewis put the home side in good stead to take control of the tie despite two lengthy rain stoppages, leading 6-4, 7-5, 1-1 before bad light forced the suspension. The game is due to resume this morning.
But there was nothing dark hanging over King’s long-awaited Davis Cup appearance in front of his home fans – many clad in “Darian King” T-shirts.
They had nothing on the look of frustration Crosa was wearing.
Battling high winds and King’s even loftier forehand, the overmatched clay-courter never quite came to grips with the hard surface or the gusty conditions, often “shanking” forehands long or dumping backhands in the net.
“I could see in it his reactions, every time he missed a forehand he was looking at his coach complaining about the wind,” said King of Crosa’s woes.
It wasn’t as if King didn’t have struggles of his own, even if the score reflected otherwise.
The hometown Lodge boy clearly battled nerves early on, dropping his very first two service games after double faulting twice and regularly mishitting his favoured forehands.
 “Mentally, I wasn’t there and I wanted to complain about the wind, which a tennis player doesn’t do, but the coach just told me to keep going,” said King.
But his Paraguayan counterpart wasn’t much better, keeping King in the set by trading service breaks under a slew of unforced errors from either side before the Bajan finally found his groove.
And, boy, did he ever.
Royal status
Trailing 3-2, King rattled off the next four games in succession to take the first set, whipping one forehand passing shot after another – none coming better than an inside-out winner from a couple feet behind the baseline.
The second set wasn’t any less authoritative either, as he hit groundstrokes fit for a man whose name implies royal status.
If there was an actual coronation, it would’ve come on a majestic backhand passing shot up the line that left even Crosa speechless.
The South American did make a game of it in the third, though, keeping the set on serve until King unravelled a lethal cross-court forehand winner from the most acute of angles to break for a 3-2 cushion.
But Crosa almost broke back at the most crucial of stages, with King falling behind 0-40 while serving for the match at 5-4. However, Barbados’ No. 1 saved all three break points before Crosa dumped an easy backhand in the net on match point.
Later in the day, southpaw Lewis had taken a 4-2 lead in the opening set when the first of two lengthy rain delays halted the home charge, before the Barbadian closed out the set and traded big aces with Lopez in the second.
Lopez eventually cracked in the 11th game, though, losing serve after he and non-playing captain Victor Pecci got animated with the chair umpire over a fault call.
And Lewis duly capitalised, serving and volleying to bring up set point before closing out the second with a huge ace up the tee.
The match is slated to resume today at 10 a.m. before Lewis returns to the court with King for their doubles match against Jose Benitez and Gustavo Ramirez.