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ON THE BALL: Tough battle on court


ON THE BALL: Tough battle on court

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In this week’s edition of On The Ball, NATION writer Justin Marville does a brief review of Barbados’ just concluded Group I Davis Cup tie against the Dominican Republic.

WHAT A DAY for the wind not to blow, eh.

Yup, the biggest home court advantage we hold didn’t play a single part in Sunday’s proceedings on a day that decided the entire outcome of the tie.

This isn’t to suggest Darian King and Haydn Lewis aren’t really good, and that they can’t win without those gale force-like winds coming down and around from the adjacent gymnasium, as their international records clearly state otherwise.

But let’s not blow off that Wildey wind either, not when every visiting nation continually complains about the gusts that sweep right across the National Tennis Centre’s stadium court.

Jose Hernandez at one point even looked ready to pack his bags early last weekend, having visibly never adjusted to the breezy conditions, while saying in a post-match interview that his only prayer is that the wind stop blowing – after only the first day.

Guess whose prayers got answered.

Well, not ours, because Hernandez looked a totally different player on a still Sunday while playing with the confidence of a world No. 268 who could swing through the ball cleanly from both wings.

And just when you thought moving back the windbreaker would result in more wind, right.

Go figure.

• How good must King be right now that we all still favoured a Barbados victory although it would be coming in a tie where both players were ranked above him?

Sure we keep hearing about his continued international exploits, but seeing is definitely believing, and everyone got the chance to look at the makings of a future top 100 player.

Too lofty?

Well, consider the 22-year-old world No. 271 (another career-best ranking) waxed a man who was rated more than 20 spots ahead of him in three straight sets while going toe-to-toe with a top 50 player for the first two sets.

Then, in dissecting his game, you really can’t say there’s no visible weakness beyond that inconsistent serve – something you readily couldn’t say about former world No. 48 Victor Estrella, who spent a lot of the weekend either spraying backhands long or dumping them in the bottom of the net.

Come to think of it, Lewis has to be very good too, when you take into account he hasn’t been on tour for the better part of three seasons now, yet played the dominant role in a straight sets doubles victory.

Then he managed to win the first set against Hernandez when the pressure was at its highest. Just think what he might have done if he was still playing on tour.

And where Barbados could be right now.

• Boy, can sports be so cruel? Tennis, of course, being no exception.

The scores may say otherwise, but those were some really hard-fought losses the home side had to endure in the reverse singles where it looked like we were in with a shout.

Yeah, Estrella was ranked 48 up to two weeks ago, but King was unfortunate not to have taken that first set after failing to capitalise on five break points in his opponent’s first two service games.

Just think had he taken advantage of 15-40 and 0-40 in both instances how different that match might have turned out. And it’s not like Estrella walked away with the second set either, as it took just one break of serve again to swing the match in his favour.

But if anyone should really consider himself unlucky, it’s Lewis, with his back giving trouble at the worst time.

It’s no coincidence that his first serve percentage got worse and worse as that fifth and decisive rubber went on, as Lewis subsequently revealed that the issues with his back started from 5-5 in the first set.

But Mexico can also say we benefited from last year’s heat exhaustion suffered by Miguel-Angel Reyes-Varela, so hey.

That’s just sports for ya.

• Speaking of that back injury, captain Kevin Yarde sure looks a lot more justified now for going with Seanon Williams in that opening rubber, instead of Lewis.

I’m sure there were more than enough sighs to go around after hearing that Lewis was sitting out the first day, but could you imagine how he may have looked on that final day after having to extend that baulky back on Friday and Saturday.

And for a moment the plan looked like it was going to work, as Lewis looked particularly sharp to start both the doubles and reverse singles before ultimately falling victim to his back and a rejuvenated Jose Hernandez.