Huey-Gonzales, Alcantara-Patrombon set up all-Filipino finals as Philippines reclaims tennis doubles gold after 28 years

Francis Casey Alcantara and Jeson Patrombon celebrates after their win at the men's doubles semifinals of the 2019 SEA Games at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Courts earlier. Jojo Lirio/Smile 8

By Kristoffer Ed Bellen

MANILA--After almost three decades of waiting to reclaim the gold medal in the men's doubles event of the Southeast Asian Games tennis competitions, the Philippines has finally found themselves back at the top of the summit as it smashed two drama-filled victories to set up what is more importantly a rare all-Filipino championship match.

Francis Casey Alcantara and long-time national teammate Jeson Patrombon weathered a slow start to finish strong and assure that the country will pocket at least a gold medal in the week-long tournament as they dominated Daniel Nguyen and Van Phuong Nguyen of Vietnam, 6-3, 6-1 in the concluding match of the 2019 SEA Games tennis competitions at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Courts, Friday.

Alcantara and Patrombon trailed early in the opening set, 2-3, after the visitors managed to hold serve in their first three services before the Filipinos found a way to rally back and win the next four games by converting all of their break points and capitalizing from the Vietnamese side's erratic game which recorded a total of six double faults in the match that lasted for one hour and 21 minutes.

"We don't care (who will win). We got the gold and silver. That's all we wanted. Bahala na bukas. Parang practice lang," Alcantara, who won the 2009 Australian Open boys' doubles title in 2009, said when asked about facing their compatriots in the final during the post-match interview.

Despite being teammates for the national team in various competitions such as the Davis Cup, this is only the second time that Alcantara and Patrombon teamed up for a doubles pairing while representing the Philippines seeing as the latter had established himself more in singles events evident by his recent maiden singles title at the 2018 PCA Open and former juniors singles rank as world number 8.

"We're very happy. First time for us to partner in the SEA Games, and we reach the final," said Patrombon, who also won the bronze in the men's singles event.

Alcantara and Patrombon, both of whom call themselves as Team Bisdak--a short term for 'bisayang daku'--will battle fellow countrymen Fil-Ams Treat Huey and Ruben Gonzales in the highly-anticipated dream doubles match for the Philippines, which will finally win the coveted men's doubles gold medal once again since Felix Barrientos and Roland So defeated Narathorn Srichaphan and Thanakorn Srichaphan in 1991.

Earlier in the afternoon, top seeds Huey and Gonzales grabbed the first men's doubles finals berth after dismantling the other Vietnamese tandem of Quoc Khan Le and Ly Hoang Nam, 6-3, 6-1, to kick off what could fittingly be dubbed as the Philippines' revenge.

It can be recalled that D. Nguyen and eventual gold medalist Nam denied the Philippines a chance to win the gold in the men's singles event after defeating AJ Lim and Patrombon, respectively.

The men's doubles finals will start at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday in Court 1 after the women's doubles finals between Indonesia's Beatrice Gumulya and Jessy Rompies and Thailand's Peangtarn Plipuech and the ageless Tamarine Tanasugarn before it will be preceded by another Indo-Thai finals when Aldila Sutjiadi and Christopher Rungkat battles against Tanasugarn and Sanchai Ratiwana for the mixed doubles championship to conclude the biennial tournament.

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