Number two on the squad, but now No. 1 in the hearts of local tennis fans.
It’s Haydn the hero that served Barbados into history.
This time there was no heartache, not for the home team at least, as Haydn Lewis capped the most unbelievable of Davis Cup rallies by coming from a set behind to win the fifth and deciding rubber against Mexico to seal yesterday’s Group II final at the National Tennis Centre.
It was easily the biggest moment in local tennis history, with Lewis’ valiant 2-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 comeback over talented teen Lucas Gomez advancing Barbados to Group I for the first time in the country’s 24-year Davis Cup history.
Bajan No. 1 Darian King got the rally going in a 6-2, 6-2, 7-5 slamming of Tigre Hank to set up the winner-take-all, pressure-filled rubber, after the home side seemingly missed out by losing Saturday’s five-set doubles heartbreaker.
But the anguish was all Mexico’s yesterday as the 19-year-old Gomez broke down in tears while watching Lewis zing a backhand winner past him on the second championship point to rapturous applause.
So big was the occasion that Lewis crumbled to the floor in pure elation before getting mobbed by a sea of teammates and fans.
“Basically everyone helped me out a lot, and I really want to praise my coach Guillermo Rivas in Tampa, but my first priority was to actually play my game and enjoy playing tennis at this level,” said Lewis.
There wasn’t much to enjoy early on though, even after customary No. 2 Miguel-Angel Reyes-Varela was a late scratch again due to heat exhaustion, as Gomez proved more than an able fill-in, breaking Lewis right off the bat to take the first set.
However, Lewis persisted in chipping and charging behind his backhand slice in the second set, eventually forcing Gomez into some backhand errors that led to the Mexican’s break at 4-2.
And with an inspired crowd behind him, Lewis quickly served out that set before breaking Gomez again to open the third set en route to a quick 4-1 cushion.
“He started out playing well but because I kept coming forward then I said if he continues playing like he did in the first set then he deserves to win more than I do,” said Lewis, who had to deal with a barrage of passes in that first set.
“Plus I was tired so I really didn’t feel like running from side to side and I figured to put all my energies into holding serve and then when he serves chip and charge and if I get one break then that’s all I need.”
But he got another break to close out the third set, then boomed a series of huge aces before coming up with the crucial break at 4-3 in the fourth set.
Earlier, King was his typically dominant self while brushing aside an overmatched Hank in straight sets.
Working over Hank’s rather suspect backhand, the world No. 319 was particularly brutal with any short balls by consistently whipping winners off each wing.
King broke twice in each of the first two sets before Hank showed signs of fight by trading the first ten games of the third set.
However, King produced a stunning crosscourt backhand winner then broke Hank at love off another return winner to set up an easy hold that locked the best-of-five rubber.