All tied up
OH SO CLOSE and yet still that far.
Just points away from finally dominating their Davis Cup rivals, Barbados settled for an opening day stalemate instead, after Haydn Lewis fell just short in his valiant comeback bid during yesterday’s second singles match against El Salvador at the National Tennis Centre.
With a chance to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the Americas Group II semi-final tie, the Bajan No.2 looked primed to take out Marcelo Arevalo, only to lose gallantly in a 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(1) heartbreaker.
This was after hometown hero Darian King continued his unbeaten run in Barbados by rolling over Arevalo’s older sibling Rafael 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in a vengeance-laced straight-sets drubbing.
It proved the perfect payback for the local No.1, who went down in four sets to the same opponent when the two met in Central America for their opening round encounter.
“I put 110 per cent out there because I just didn’t want to lose today,” said a relieved King.
It’s a sentiment felt by the entire squad following the hosts’ recent record against a team that has beaten them twice in the last four years, including a 4-1 drubbing a season ago in El Salvador.
Even Lewis, who was absent for that 2013 showdown, was chomping at the bit, having lost to Marcelo in Guadalajara three years prior.
And Lewis showed Barbados exactly what they were missing from that last match-up, coming within two points of winning the first set before taking the second to level the match.
He very easily could have been holding a two-set lead, having led 5-4 in that tiebreak before Marcelo rattled off the final three points – including one incredible lunge and subsequent volley to close out.
“He played better today in the big points and that’s all that happened,” Lewis explained.
It was the story of a battle between two big-serving power players where nothing seemingly separated them in an epic thriller.
So close was the contest that when Marcelo initially broke Lewis for a 4-3 first-set lead, Lewis merely struck back in the very next game to keep the battle on an even keel.
The second set was a near mirror image too, with Lewis breaking Arevalo for a 3-2 advantage only to see the visitor immediately repay the favour.
But the hometown southpaw wasn’t going to be denied, using his fearsome inside-out forehand to open up the court and set up passing shots that led to a subsequent break at 6-5.
He didn’t waste any time closing out either, with that forehand setting up more points before a huge ace down the tee gave him the set.
Arevalo just refused to fold under the crowd pressure though, as he and Lewis traded big passing shots and even bigger service winners in the ensuing third set.
However, Lewis cracked first, and at the wrong time, firing a double fault while missing two swinging volleys to be broken down 5-4 while serving to stay in the set.
Yet the match still didn’t sway in Marcelo’s favour, and Lewis took an encouraging 5-3 lead on the back of two early breaks before serving for the set again up 5-4.
But things fell apart for the sweet-hitting lefty, who double-faulted to hand the break back to Arevalo before losing six points in succession in the ensuing tiebreak.
Earlier, King set the tone or a completely dominant performance by breaking Arevalo three times in his first four service games to set up a comfortable victory.
At one point, King had just four unforced errors inside the first hour against a tiring Rafael, who also needed treatment on an injured right shoulder late in the second set.
The elder Arevalo did eventually threaten though, breaking King for a 2-0 third set lead after taking a lengthy injury timeout between sets.
King quickly responded though, breaking back at love before taking Rafael’s very next service game with some incredible reflex returns off either wing.
The tie continues today at noon with King and Lewis’ doubles match against the Arevalos.