MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines’ decision to take out its top singles player Ruben Gonzales in the crucial reverse singles matches backfired as PJ Tierro and Johnny Arcilla lost to Aqeel Khan and Aisam Qureshi as Pakistan came back from the brink to snatch a 3-2 victory in their Asia-Oceania Zone Group II Davis Cup tie yesterday.
In a shocking decision, Arcilla substituted for Gonzales, the country’s No. 1 singles player, and lost to Khan in the first of two reverse singles matches after retiring due to a pulled groin muscle in the fourth set. It was a sorry setback for the 34-year-old Arcilla, who was leading 6-4, 1-6, 6-2, 2-0, in the fourth set when he sustained the injury.
Tierro then followed suit as he absorbed a 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 defeat at the hands of Qureshi, who substituted for US-trained Samir Iftikhar to deliver the match-clinching win.
After the win was sealed, Pakistan celebrated along with their small but boisterous flag-waiving supporters while the bigger Filipino crowd all went home disappointed.
Arcilla, who sued for a medical timeout, tried to fight off the pain but just lost everything, his mobility, agility and power as he helplessly watched Khan dominate the rest of the way, scoring point after point against his injured foe.
The Filipino eventually retired when he couldn’t endure the pain any longer just as Khan was a game away of wrapping up the win , 4-6, 6-1, 2-6, 6-3, 5-1.
Khan’s crucial victory tied the match at 2, rendering the final reverse singles duel as the decider. The Phl won the first opening singles Friday on wins by Tierro over Khan, 7-5, 6-4, 6-4, and Gonzales against Iftikhar, 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 but Khan and Qureshi beat Treat Huey and Gonzales, 7-5, 6-3, 6-2, in Saturday’s doubles.
The decision to replace Gonzales with a fresh Arcilla backfired though as it was the 34-year-old Khan who looked fresher despite playing a total of 11 sets spread out in three matches and the same number of days.
Khan admitted after the match that he almost fell to cramps.
“I was starting to feel cramps but I continued to play and didn’t show it. In this level, you don’t let you’re opponent see you’re hurting,” said Khan, who has played an impressive 88th Davis Cup match, prevailing in half of it.