From left to right: Captain Damien Applewhaite, Chris King, Darian King, Haydn Lewis and Adam Hornby pose by the scoreboard after working their way into Group I with a three-two win over Venezuela.
After being faced with an almost identical situation back in 2014 against Mexico, while seeking admission into Group I for the first time ever, Haydn Lewis proved that he was worth his salt yesterday as he pulled off a win in the all important fifth rubber of the Davis Cup Group II Americas final against Venezuela.
Playing at the National Tennis Centre after two days of suspension due to the passage of Hurricane Maria, a 31-year-old Lewis showed that there was much tennis ahead in his future as he beat Luis David Martinez in four sets – 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. With Darian King tying things up in the earlier game, the pressure was loaded on both sides as the win would mean promotion to Group I.
Lewis got off to a poor start, being broken in the very first game and again in the seventh to see himself trailing at five games to two. Martinez went on to win the first set but Lewis would bounce back in the second, as he fought his way up from a three-one deficit to tie things up at three games each. It was the crucial sixth and seventh games where Lewis first broke Martinez and held service to turn things around.
Speaking to members of the media after the game, Lewis explained that his sluggish start was compliments of a halt in proceedings after both players had warmed up due to officials waiting for scoring software to be operational on the tournament website. “It took me a while to get going. It had me very frustrated that we stopped for a long time and then the referee did not want to give us a full warm up again after sitting down there for a problem that was with the ITF and nothing to do with the players. It would have definitely been in Luis’ favour as he was returning. So that had me frustrated from the start and it took me a little while to get over that, but once I found a way to let my frustration out, even if I got the warning, I felt much better after that and I started putting points together and slowly getting myself into the match and then taking control,” he said.
Noting that his game-plan was to put in his work after his poor first set, Lewis hacked away at a resilient Martinez, racking up numerous aces in the match which he dedicated to his late cousin Michael Marshall. With the weather taking a much different tone to the first two days of the tie, Lewis said that it was a welcome change as the heat left him drained after Saturday’s Doubles match. “The rain was kind of a blessing too because I had two days off to relax and recover. And then to come out here to it not being hot and being overcast was good too. The hotter the weather, the better it is for my serve as well, but I still much rather a cool day,” he said.
The second set saw Lewis going up four games to two, taking another break point and then going on to five games to two. His run was halted slightly as Martinez took another game to make his tally three. However, Lewis put the set to rest in the very next game.
The fourth set could have gone either way as both players had racked up two games each at the end of four. However, Lewis played to his strengths – his big serve and moving to the net to keep Martinez under pressure as the home crowd rallied behind him. Lewis never looked back and ran on to take the final set at six-four.
Venezuela’s Captain Yohny Romero told members of the media in a post-game interview that Lewis deserved his win as he was a formidable opponent. “We have to give all the credit to Lewis. He managed to change the tactics. He believed after the second set that he could win the match and he took his chances and he raised his level like we never thought he could. So we are very surprised and we have to give him the credit,” Romero said.
Barbados’ Captain Damien Applewhaite also spoke to members of the media and said that it felt good for the team to be stepping back up to Group I. “I am very proud of this team and they should be very proud of themselves. We worked hard to achieve a goal which we set out at the beginning of the year – to get back into Group I – and we are very happy to be in this position,” he said. (MP)