Pinoys bow to Thai netters
Abac Cordero ( - April 8, 2018 - 7:00pm

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines took bitter losses one after the other on Sunday and bowed to Thailand, 4-1, in their Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group 2 tie at the Philippine Columbian Association shell-clay courts.

A highly-supportive crowd came to cheer on the Filipino netters, who just couldn't hold their ground,  losing the crucial doubles in the morning and then a must-win reverse singles match past noon.

Old hand Johnny Arcilla teamed up with Nino Alcantara against the twins from Thailand, Sonchat and Sanchai Ratiwatana, but after winning the first set allowed the 36-year-old twins to steal the match, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1.

That gave the Thais, ranked No. 43 in the world and six rungs higher than the Filipinos, a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five tie following a split of the opening singles last Saturday.

Jeson Patrombon then entered the court in a must-win situation against Thailand's top player, Wishaya Trongcharoenchaikul, who's at No. 433 in the world, far higher than the Filipino.

But Patrombon played better than his world ranking, and dragged the Thai player with perhaps the longest name in tennis into a tight three-set match that lasted two hours 20 minutes.

Trongcharoenchaikul celebrated his 25th birthday on the court, and didn't let Patrombon spoil his special day despite losing the second set. The match ended at 6-4, 1-6, 7-5, giving the Thais an insurmountable 3-1 lead.

Palaphoom Kovapitukted sealed the romp for the Thais with a 6-4, 6-3 win over 18-year-old John Bryan Otico.

"It's a happy birthday," said the Thai ace after the win that sent his team to the next round, against either Lebanon and Hong Kong, for a chance to move up to Group 1 next year.

"Anything can happen," said Trongcharoenchaikul.

With the defeat, the Filipinos kissed goodbye yet another shot at advancing to Group 1. The last time the Philippines got that far in Davis Cup was in 2011.

"I gave my best," said Patrombon, who drew loud cheers from the crowd, made up mostly of PCA members, each time he scored a point against the 6-foot-3 Thai player.

Patrombon fought as hard in the deciding set, at times leaving his superior Thai foe, who had beaten him in the quarterfinals of the 2017 SEA Games, shaking his head in disbelief.

Trongcharoenchaikul broke Patrombon's serve in the final game. The end came when the latter hit a soft volley to the net, then a forehand to the net, and another shot wide.

The Thai heaved a big sigh of relief after the winning point, and the Thai supporters at courtside, no more than a dozen of them, rose from their seats with fists in the air.

In frustration, Patrombom hurled his racket toward the net. But he quickly gathered himself, came over to pick it up, and shook the hands of the winner.

"It's always toward the end. We
always do well at the start but we could not finish. But they were good matches. Our players played better than we expected of them," said Filipino non-playing team campaign Chris Cuarto.

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