LAPU-LAPU CITY, Cebu, Philippines – After seeing the first singles matches wind up in a tie, Fil-Am’s Cecil Mamiit and Treat Conrad Huey were repeatedly emphasizing how good Chinese Taipei players are in doubles.
Mamiit and Huey meant every single word it.
Needing a win to gain the crucial upperhand, Mamiit and Huey blew their chances, succumbed to pressure and absorbed a heartbreaking 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, 8-6 decision at the hands of Chinese Taipei’s Lee Hsin Han and Yi Chu Huan on a familiar surface to send the Taiwanese ahead, 2-1, in their Asia-Oceania Davis Cup Group I relegation tie yesterday.
Cheered wildly by the local crowd who trooped to the 1,500-seater Plantation Bay Resorts and Spa claycourt, the Filipino duo gave everything to win and, in fact, took the first and third sets to take a 2-1 set lead but Lee and Yi were just too persistent and tough to turn the tide in their favor.
“It was a close battle but I have to give it to the Chinese Taipei team, they played really well while we missed opportunities here and there,” said the 35-year-old Mamiit, the Filipinos playing team captain after the draining, marathon loss that lasted four gruelling hours.
“But we got to move on, there’s another day and we’re still positive.
“It was really a tough one but tomorrow’s (today’s) a new day, I believe in my team and we’re looking for another opportunity to win this tie,” he added.
Huey, ranked 59th in the world in doubles, hopes to follow up his 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 demolition of Jimmy Wang Friday as he takes on Chinese Taipei ace Chen Ti, who downed Mamiit, 6-7 (2), 6-2, 7-6 (6), 6-3 in the first singles match, starting at 10 a.m. while Mamiit clashes with Wang eyeing no less than a pair of victories to pull off the come-from-behind win.
Everything though will hinge on how Huey performs as a loss for him would render the Mamiit-Wang match meaningless.
“It was a hard-fought game, we played well but in the end they played really well and strong but sometimes that’s how it goes,” said the 26-year-old Huey, who is a far better singles player than what his World No. 901 rankings indicates.
“Somehow, two singles win will save us the tie and we can definitely do that,” he added.
“The way Treat played in the first day, for sure Chinese Taipei will be on their toes, I believe in Treat and he has a lot of energy,” said Mamiit, who recently retired from the Association of Tennis Professionals Tour.
The Filipinos, whose trip here is backed by Cebuana Lhuillier, Accel, Slazenger Balls, Plantation Bay Resorts and Spa, Lapu Lapu City and Philippine Sports Commission, actually took control, 6-5, in the deciding set after the ageless Mamiit calmly held serve but Yi cooly held serve to knot the count at 6-all.
The Taiwanese then broke Huey on the pivotal 13th game to surge ahead, 7-6, before Lee delivered the powerful serves that sealed their second victory over Mamiit and Huey after the former beat the latter to clinch the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games bronze medal.
“I feel excited because we beat them twice now and we won over a player (Huey) that made it to the round-of-16 US Open doubles,” said Lee, a heavy set 23-year-old who was a last-minute replacement to Wang in the doubles.
“We haven’t really played together since the Asian Games last year, we just tried to get every point and tried to do best and it worked for us,” the 24-year-old Yi said.
If Mamiit and Huey found a way to stretch the match even longer, they would have won it via retirement as Lee appeared cramping in the late stages of the game.
However, Lee’s big serves and powerful forehands found their target to end the Filipinos’ hopes.
“If we still played longer, maybe I’ll retire the match because the cramping is starting to hurt,” said Lee, who limped his way to the mandatory post-match media interviews.
Chinese Taipei was also impressed with Huey’s play.
“I think everybody here knows Treat’s serves and shots are really tough to stop, he’s got good touch and he’s hard to beat,” said Yi.
The winner of this tie will keep its place in Group I while the loser will be relegated to Group II.