Gonzales stars as Pinoy Cuppers advance

Published on Monday, 04 February 2013

LAPU-LAPU City, Cebu. – Call it a Davis Cup coming out party for Ruben Gonzales Jr.

That’s what the 27-year-old Filipino-American accomplished in the country’s opening Group 2 Asia-Oceania tie against embattled Syria, leading the Philippines to a series-clinching 3-0 lead after two days of action at the picturesque Plantation Bay and Resort spa shellcourt here.

After playing third wheel to fellow Fil-Ams Cecil Mamiit and Treat Huey in his first three years of Davis Cup play, the former University of Illinois standout hogged the spotlight by scoring crucial victories in the second singles last Friday and Saturday’s pivotal doubles as the Filipinos advanced to the next round.

In a brilliant follow-up to veteran Johnny Arcilla’s emphatic 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 conquest of top-ranked Syrian Issam Taweel in the opening singles, Gonzales displayed a solid all-around game, combining power and finesse to frustrated Marc Abdelnour 6-4, 7-6 (7-1), 6-2 and stake the hosts to a 2-0 lead.

It was the first Davis Cup triumph for the tall, dusky and well-built- Fil-Am, largely inspired no doubt by the presence of his father, cancer specialist Ruben Sr. and nutritionist-mom Ched who flew all the way from Indiana to watch and cheer their son play.

For an encore, Gonzales, a right-hander, found chemistry in only his second doubles team-up with southpaw Huey as they outhustled and outsmarted the Syrian duo of Taweel and Abdelnour 6-0, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 to wrap up the best-of-5 tie for the Cebuana Lhuillier-Phillippine squad.

Saturday’s outcome rendered the two remaining reverse singles on Sunday as no-bearing matches, each reduced to best-of-3 sets.

Non-playing team captain Roland Kraut gave Gonzales, who was scheduled to compete in the first singles match, a well-deserved break, penciling in Elmer Anasta, who held a 2-0 set lead over Taweel before play was suspended by rain.

“This is my best Davis Cup so far and I hope this is something I can build on,” said Gonzales, who attributed his improved form not only to his past Davis Cup experience but also for the various competitions under his belt.

“I will certainly be back for the second-round tie in April,” added Gonzales, referring to the next tie either against Kuwait or Thailand also at this world-class seaside resort overlooking the Mactan Channel.

“Gonzales played really well in enabling the Philippines to clinch the tie, and in keeping with our goal to return to Group 1,” said Cebuana-Lhuillier chief and squad sponsor Jean Henri Lhuillier, a keen and involved spectator since the opening day of the three-day competition.

His sentiment was echoed by Philippine Tennis Association official Romy Magat, who gave the thumbs-up for the staging of the next tie here, saying: “Thanks to the performance of Gonzales, we hope the Philippines can continue its quest in returning to Group 1 of our zone.”

Kraut said he picked Gonzales over Anasta, who was earlier named in Thursday’s draw as Huey’s partner, based on the Fil-Am’s solid showing in the second singles last Friday.

“Ruben showed a lot of confidence and was impressive in the second so I decided to team him up with Huey,” Kraut said. “Our faith in him was rewarded.”

Also a former national player, Kraut said the 3-0 sweep of the first three matches showcased the current depth of the Philippine squad “because anyone of them can play. It can also pose a problem when everyone also wants to see action, but it’s a good problem to have.”

“Syria was also a strong team and served as good test for our boys,” he added.

Asked which team–Kuwait or Thailand–he prefers to face next, Kraut said he would much prefer the Kuwaitis since the Thais, who have been Davis Cup tormentors of the Philippines in the past, continue to be led by veteran Danai Udomchoke, who is ranked No. 159 by the ATP.

Thailand was ahead 2-1 over Kuwait as of Saturday.


Copyright © PJ LHUILLIER GROUP OF COMPANIES. All rights reserved