Dancevic's despair

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:18 AM ET

Frank Dancevic was one shot and inches from becoming a hero and sending Canada to the next round of the Davis Cup tournament.

"It's amazing how one point can make you a hero or a bum. Right now I feel like a bum after not winning that tiebreaker. it's really tough," said Dancevic after dropping a marathon five-set match 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 1-6 to Ecuador's Nicolas Lapentti.

The misery was complete when Frederic Niemeyer lost his singles match to Nicolas' brother, Giovanni 6-2, 6-7(7-5) 3-6, 3-6, giving Ecuador the best-of-five series 3-2. As the final points played out, Dancevic sat on the sidelines, head in his hands, not bearing to watch.

Canada came into the day needing one win. But, just as in 2005 when they let Belarus off a 2-1 hook, the Canadians coudn't close out the first- round tie at Rexall Centre.

"It was a long day," said captain Martin Laurendeau, "that's Davis Cup. You never know ... Fred started good." Niemeyer did restore some hope with his first set win but he too lost a tiebreaker. The final result was never again in doubt.

"I didn't feel pressure," Niemeyer said. "It was hard to get ready. It was nerve-wracking (watching Dancevic's demise)."

In the opening match Dancevic and Nicolas sweated through four hours and 45 minutes of physical torture, emotional twists and tennis virtuosity.

It was like watching a couple of gladiators; neither of whom knew how to die.

Both needed trainers to keep them on the court as hamstrings, calves and nerves frayed.

Dancevic appeared on the verge of victory. Leading 2-1, he cruised to a 4-1 lead in the fourth set. But Dancevic's legs cramped.

"From the start of the fourth set I was cramping every time I served. I've never been in a situation where I had match point and ended up losing. I'm still in shock," said Dancevic, rubbing his eyes in a post-game interview.

Slowly, Lapentti fought his way back to 4-4.

"I could see Frank was in pain," said Lapentti. "Also, I don't know how many long matches Frank has been in but I've been in a thousand. Towards the end, experience counts."

Dancevic still had a 6-5 lead when he went crashing into the corner box in a 30-ball rally.

He won the point, but maybe lost the match.

The momentum shifted as often as rival fans exchanged chants of "Ecuador!" and "Go Frank Go". Umpire Ali Nili was giving Nicolas as much trouble with disputed line calls as Dancevic was having with his sore legs. The most strenuous discussion came in the crucial fourth-set tiebreaker. Dancevic's shot was ruled in by the umpire after a linesman had called it out. That left Lapentti down 4-3 and livid.

"I couldn't believe he'd over-rule the linesman at that point."

With Dancevic up 6-4, came the turning point.

"I had the match. I had two match points. I had the match in my hands and let it slip away," said Dancevic." I missed the approach into the rape. All I had to do was .... make that."

But he didn't.

Lapentti rattled off the next four points to win 8-6.

"I was finished," said Dancevic who buried his head in his hands on the sideline to the taunts of "Ecuador! Ecuador!" from a group of Lapentti suppoters when he fell behind 5-0 in the final set.

"I had no legs anymore. I knew I had to finish him in the tiebreaker. It's probably the worst experience of my life in tennis."


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