After 28 long years, the Philippines finally won a gold medal in men's doubles tennis at the Southeast Asian Games after Francis Casey Alcantara pulled off a mild upset with a straight sets win over their veteran compatriots Treat Huey and Ruben Gonzalez, 7-6 7-5, at the Rizal Memorial Tennis Center in Malate.
That the Philippines would crown their first men's doubles champions in the biennial meet since Felix Barrientos and Roland So last pulled it off - interestingly, also at the very same venue - was a foregone conclusion after the two Pinoy pairs dispose of their Vietnamese opponents the day before. But that didn't stop the final match from producing drama and emotion.
Huey and Gonzalez, arguably the favorites given their experience playing together and longer exposure in the international circuits, were a service hold away from winning the first set after taking a 5-3 lead. But Patrombon and Alcantara - both twentysomethings who were born and raised in Mindanao - held serve in the ninth game then broke serve in the next to tie it up.
The two sides headed to a tiebreak, where Patrombon and Alcantara completed their comeback with a 6-2 scoreline.
The second set was just as intense as both sides refused to give an inch. The youngsters inched ahead 6-5, but found themselves just a point away from another tiebreak after the veterans took a 40-0 lead. But Patrombon and Alcantara dug deep and won the next four points to take the set, the match and the gold.
Alcantara had said that it didn't matter to him who won the gold, but afterwards he admitted being filled with joy over his accomplishment.
"Sobrang happy and thankful," he said when asked about their feat. 'Kudos to Treat and Ruben. They played real good today."
Alcantara added that their familiarity with Huey and Gonzalez's style of play proved to be a difference-maker.
"We've known them for a few years now since we're teammates and we know their strengths and weaknesses. We worked on our game."
It was also the first gold medal for the Philippines in the tennis competition in 10 years, when Cecil Mamiit won the men's singles gold in Laos.