Thursday, April 25, 2024

Breakthrough

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IT TOOK JUST 24 minutes to do what others couldn’t in 24 years.
Barbados finally have that spot in the Group II final, and a long-awaited win over El Salvador too, as the hosts duly wrapped up their Davis Cup tie 4-1 when Marcelo Arevalo retired hurt in yesterday’s opening reverse singles at the National Tennis Centre.
Clearly favouring an ailing back, Arevalo eventually decided to call it quits less than a half hour into the match with local No.1 Darian King already leading 6-0, 1-0.
The result handed the hosts an unassailable 3-1 lead after Arevalo had also retired hurt while playing with elder brother Rafael in Saturday’s doubles against King and Haydn Lewis.
“I was dealing with some pain last week, but it was nothing like this today [yesterday] and I think after I played [Haydn] Lewis I started to feel something,” said Marcelo of his back injury.
“I asked for the trainer and she started to work on my back and the next day I was feeling great for the doubles. But then in the third set I had troubles serving and after that I said if I wasn’t going to give 100 per cent then I was not going to be on the court.”
It took some of the shine off the biggest tennis moment in Barbados, which had never seen any previous Davis Cup squads advance to a Group II final since the country’s debut back in 1990.
And the occasion was twice as gratifying, with the hosts getting the better of an El Salvador side that beat them twice in the last four years and previously owned a 4-1 head-to-head record.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said a jubilant Kevin Yarde, captain of the Barbados squad.
“This was always my goal at the beginning of the year and from the time I saw the draw I said we had a good chance.”
From the first point, it was clear just how good that chance was, as the usually big-hitting Marcelo had to settle for spinning the ball in on his serve while trying to cope with the pain.
His mobility wasn’t much better either, with the towering Central American struggling to cover ground while forced to move laterally.
And King didn’t pay him any favours while breaking him at love to start via a series of forehand winners.
The home town hero was almost ruthless in his approach, showing no emotion when he struck a couple of trademark backhand passes along with even bigger aces down the tee.
“He never gives up so I have to thank Haydn [Lewis] although he didn’t win because he did enough to have Marcelo tired,” laughed a whimsical King.
“But mentally it’s very tough because you know the guy is a fighter, he rallies a lot and then to see him walking around the baseline it can throw you off. So last night I went through a lot of concentration preparations and then try to take my mind off of it.”
Seanon Williams then put the icing on the cake when he survived some anxious moments to beat gritty 15-year-old Salvador Bolanos 6-2, 7-6(5), 7-6(10) on his fifth match point.
The local No.3 looked certain of winning in a rout, having opened the match with an ace and winning the first set in less than a half of an hour while whipping forehand passes everywhere.
Williams was even up 4-1 in the ensuing second set before unravelling at the seams to let Bolanos right back in the match. Nothing separated the two in the third until Williams eventually pulled it out in the tiebreak after four missed match points.
Barbados will host Mexico in the final from September 12 to 14 at the same venue.

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