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MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ decision to take out its top singles player Ruben Gonzalez in the critical reverse singles matches backfired as PJ Tierro and Johnny Arcilla lost to Aqeel Khan and Aisam Qureshi as Pakistan came back from the dead to snatch a 3-2 victory Sunday in their Asia-Ocenaia Zone Group II Davis Cup tie.
In a shocking decision, Arcilla substituted for Fil-Am Ruben Gonzales, the country’s No. 1 singles player, and lost to Aqeel Khan in the first of two reverse singles matches of the day after retiring in suffering a pulled groin muscle in the fourth set.
Tierro then followed suit when he absorbed a 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 defeat at the hands of Qureshi, who substituted for United States-trained but raw Samir Iftikhar to deliver the match clinching win.
After the match was sealed, Pakistan celebrated along with their small but boisterous flag-waiving countrymen while the bigger Filipino crowd hoping for a victory went home disappointed.
It was a sorry loss 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.
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 domninate the rest of the way, scoring point after point against his immobile foe.
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The Filipino finally retired when he couldn’t endure the pain any more just as when Khan was a game away from wrapping up the win , 4-6, 6-1, 2-6, 6-3, 5-1.
Khan’s crucial victory sent the tie to a 2-all deadlock as the Phl won the first opening singles Friday thanks to wins by Tierro over Khan, 7-5, 6-4, 6-4, and Gonzales against Iftikhar, 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 before Khan and Qureshi teamed up in Saturday’s doubles by beating Treat Huey and Gonzales, 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.
The decision to replace Gonzales with a fresh Arcilla backfired though as it was the 34-year-old Khan who looked more fresh 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.
Ironically, Arcilla lost on this exact same clay court where everybody thought he is untouchable after winning a record seven PCA Open title.
The game marked Arcilla’s 50th Davis Cup game, winning 27 and losing 23.
And it could be his last.
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