BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ZIMBABWE were relegated to Davis Cup World Group III of the Davis Cup after Benjamin Lock lost in three sets to Arevalo-Gonzalez, Marcelo 3-6, 7-5, 4-6 in the first reverse singles match as El Salvador sealed a 3-1 victory at Harare Sports Club yesterday.
Cheered on by a passionate home crowd, the hosts started the second day desperate to seize back the initiative in the crucial doubles rubber after the two teams shared victories in Friday’s singles duels.
And they appeared on course when the brothers Benjamin and Courtney started brightly, putting the Salvadorian pair of Marcelo Arévalo and Lluis Miralles under pressure, but they soon wilted and were beaten in three sets 6-4, 3-6, 2-6 in one hour 40 minutes.
With the hosts struggling in the doubles, it was to Benjamin, who comfortably won Friday’s opening singles encounter, to try and keep the match alive in the first reverse singles match.
The country’s top ranked player, however, found the going tough against the experienced Arévalo, who dug deep to win the decisive match 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 in two hours 21 minutes and seal the hosts’ fate with one match to spare.
The disappointing home defeat against El Salvador means Zimbabwe, who have spent the last four years in Group II, drop a rung down to the less fashionable regional Group III events, which will all be played on a home-and-away basis in September.
The Gwinyai Tongoona-captained side, which clearly missed the experience of Takanyi Garanganga due to injury, will reflect on the defeat with disappointment after failing to make use of their opportunities during the two days.
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El Salvador’s match winner Arévalo was elated after the win, which he attributed to their ability to make good use of their opportunities.
“It means a lot. We knew it would be a really close tie, Zimbabwe has good players. I know all the players in their team are competing on tour, playing some Futures and Challenger Tour level events. So we knew it would be a tough tie for our team I think we got a bit of luck in the matches today. I was surviving towards the third set,” he said.