Philippines' Khim Iglupas and Francis Casey Alcantara (right) with their opponents Quoc Khanh Le and Savanna Nguyen (left) of Vietnam. Gregg Esquivel
By Kristoffer Ed Bellen
MANILA--The Philippine national men's and women's tennis team did not disappoint the hundreds of Filipino tennis fans who flocked on Sunday at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center as they delivered a winning start at the opening day of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games tennis competitions.
AJ Lim started things off for the national team as he made a quick work on Timor Leste's Patricio Ferreira and scored a rare double-bagel, 6-0, 6-0, at the men's singles event before compatriot fifth seeded Jeson Patrombon followed it up with a dominant victory of his own by dispatching Sataporn Sammalavong of Laos, 6-1, 6-1.
Anna Clarice Patrimonio, dusted off Lynelle Lim of Singapore in two sets, 6-3, 6-3, in front of a loud and proud Filipino crowd to avenge unseeded Marian Capadocia's earlier unfortunate loss against second seed and world number 356 Aldila Sutjiadi.
Former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA)'s 4-time Most Valuable Player and former SEA Games gold medalist Alvin Patrimonio, Clarice's father, as well as her sister and former national tennis team member Cristine were seen cheering for her at the bleachers. Filipino singer Wency Cornejo was also seen in attendance.
2015 SEA Games mixed doubles gold medalists Treat Huey and Denise Dy concluded the Philippines' matches for the opening day with an emphatic 6-1, 6-4 victory over Chenda Som and Kenny Bun of Cambodia to start their road to redemption but it was really Francis Casey Alcantara and Khim Iglupas who captivated the hearts of the Filipinos after surviving a dramatic mixed doubles match of their own.
After narrowly losing in the opening set, 6-7, Alcantara and Iglupas regrouped in the second set, 6-3, to force a third set tiebreaker.
Alcantara and Iglupas, both of whom have playing history at the US NCAA Tennis tournaments with the former being a Pepperdine University scholar before and the latter being a current Arizona Wildcat, had three match points at 9-6, before the Vietnamese side of Savanna Nguyen and Quoc Khanh Le got back on track off three straight Philippine unforced errors.
The 2009 Australian Open juniors' boys doubles champion, Alcantara, then overwhelmed the pressure after firing off a dazzling service ace before following it up with a powerful down-the-line forehand winner to cap off an emotional come-from-behind 6-7, 6-3, 11-9 victory.
Meanwhile, Capadocia's 2-6, 2-6 loss against Sutjiadi was the Philippines' only defeat on Sunday but proved to be a crucial one as it trimmed the country's chances to have at least two medals in the women's singles event.
Nevertheless, the Philippine team is slated to play four matches on Monday with Lim, Patrimonio, Huey and Dy, and Alcantara and Iglupas all seeing action.
Follow him on Twitter: @KristoffBellen