ON THE BALL: One for the road
IT WAS only a matter of time.
I know sports are played on the day, but everything just pointed to Barbados finally breaking that winless record away from home in Davis Cup Group II play.
Think about it for a second.
Paraguay weren’t exactly fielding a juggernaut. Darian King is as good as he’s ever been. The guys got a chance to practise on clay at Royal Westmoreland.
And this result came a round later than expected.
That’s right, I honestly believe Barbados should have won a certain relegation tie in Dominican Republic, especially after King beat then world No. 94 Victor Estrella in straight sets in his own backyard.
Somehow Estrella and Jose Hernandez managed to pull out that all-important doubles victory, yet they still had to pull out a hard-fought four-set victory in the fifth and decisive rubber.
So if the boys almost got the better of a higher-rated Group I side featuring a top 100 player in a pressure-packed scenario, then what chance did Paraguay ever have in an opening-round tie with lower players?
We also seem to forget that King just so happened to win his first ATP Challenger title on clay – against the same Estrella no less.
With a week of practice on clay at home (and another in Paraguay), Darian was always going to be at home on the red dust, and it showed in South America where he did not drop a single set in three matches over an entire weekend.
Absolutely nothing pointed to a Paraguay victory other than the hot South American sun, and that appeared to take its toll on Ayed Zatar more than anyone else.
So now you expect Guatemala to come into Barbados to beat an in-form King and a fully-fit Haydn Lewis on hard court at the windy National Tennis Centre where they’ve only lost two ties.
Yeah, think about that for a second.
• Barbados’ overseas record sure looks a lot better now, but you know who’s standing really came out smelling like roses?
Try the Barbados Tennis Association (BTA).
You could overlook the decision to replace Kevin Yarde all you want, but could you imagine the heat the BTA executive would face if the team came out on the wrong end of the result in Paraguay and then lost a relegation tie in Mexico?
Yeah, try explaining that you axed a man because he got demoted from Group I in favour of a man who ended up getting relegated from Group II.
And it would have been even worse considering all of Yarde’s prior success.
All’s well that ends well, though, and the move to Damien Applewhaite seems justified now, whether or not the Paraguay victory is a mere coincidence.
It may well look like genius too seven months from now considering Barbados are but two home victories away from being promoted to Group I again.
Apparently the BTA executive.
• Speaking of Applewhaite, the rookie Davis Cup captain must be breathing a lot easier now.
After all, that win should take a big weight off his chest.
No matter what anyone said, Applewhaite always had huge shoes to fill after following a man that led Barbados from the depths of Group IV right up to Group I for the first time in the country’s Davis Cup history.
And it’s not just the pressure of replacing Yarde that faced Applewhaite either considering he was entering his first assignment away from home with a team that never won on the road.
Well so much for that nervous debut.
Of course, it helps to have a certain Darian King and Haydn Lewis along to ease matters.
And now he’ll get a further helping hand from having a home court.
• I won’t lie by telling you I wasn’t disappointed not to see Matthew Foster-Estwick on court.
But I totally understand the need to play Seanon Williams.
Has to blood replacement
Let’s face reality, Haydn Lewis probably won’t be playing at this level five years from now, so Applewhaite has to blood a capable replacement at No. 2.
And that has to be Williams right now.
At 25 years old (26 on Friday), the big-hitting baseliner has to be ready to play meaningful matches just shortly because when Lewis inevitably goes, then our doubles wins won’t be a certainty.
King may not even be a constant fixture on the team if he cracks the top 100 and makes regular appearances in Grand Slam main draws.
Foster-Estwick’s time will inevitably come down the road, but Williams’ appears to be fast approaching.