Barbados has a new tennis hero.
In one of the most memorable performances ever seen at the National Tennis Center, Kaipo Marshall stunningly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat Saturday evening to ensure Barbados would remain in Group II of the Davis Cup.
Down a set and trailing 4-5 in the second, the 20-year-old Marshall produced a remarkable comeback to stun Pacific Oceania’s Clement Mainguy 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the deciding fifth match.
With the rubber tied at two games apiece, the contest seemed all but over with Mainguy serving for the match with a 5-4 lead in the second set.
But with his back against the wall, Marshall played flawlessly, producing two scorching forehand shots and a perfectly executed backhand crosscourt winner to break Mainguy at love and tie the score at 5-5.
And even though Marshall comfortably held his serve at love to take a 6-5 lead, the set seemed headed for a tiebreaker with Mainguy leading 40-15 in the next game. But an errant backhand and a double fault allowed Marshall back into the contest.
Marshall then followed up with a superb overhead smash before Mainguy’s forehand shot sailed wide to give Marshall the set.
In an up and down third set, Marshall was broken in the opening game but struck back immediately to break Mainguy and level the set at 1-1.
The pendulum then swung in Marshall’s favour when he broke Mainguy in the sixth game to take a crucial 4-2 lead.
Serving for the match at 5-3, Marshall produced two more stunning forehand winners and added an ace for good measure to lead 40-0. He then closed out the contest with a sublime cross-court forehand winner that gave Mainguy no chance.
The result sparked wild celebrations on the court, with team captain Damien Applewhaite and fellow team members Darian King and Matthew Foster-Estwick embracing him.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY moments after, Marshall said it was an unbelievable feeling to have sealed the victory for Barbados.
“At 5-4 down that set I was pretty pissed off having lost my serve at 4-4 because it has happened to me over and over again. I’ve lost my serve in those important moments and I told myself that I didn’t want it to end the same way that it did in the past. I knew it had happened before but I used it to my advantage today to overcome it.
“I really had to flip my mindset and stay positive in that game. Up to now, I don’t know how I broke him in that game, but I think he also got a little bit tight and I was able to put a lot of balls on the court and pull through that game and then feed off of my team members on the side and that really gave me the confidence and got me through the second set,” Marshall said.
“Once I won that second set I knew I had a chance. I started the third set kind of shaky, I lost my serve but I was able to come back and at 5-3 when I was serving I told myself that it is my biggest strength and I was able to pull through and I am super proud of myself.”
King, who could be seen cheering on Marshall on every point from the sidelines, said he always believed Marshall would come through for the team.
“I had total belief in Kaipo, especially after playing the guy on the first day. I knew that if I got it to the situation that Kaipo had the weapons, the serves and the shots because he is an aggressive player.
“I think we had a good talk before the match and Kaipo came out and executed it, not much in the first, but in the second and the third you saw everything start to fall together and that’s a big positive going into the next round of the Davis Cup,” King said.
An elated Applewhaite had nothing but praise for his team.
“I’m actually lost for words right now. It’s been an emotional roller coaster and as captain I live through every point of this tie. Our back was against the wall after going down 2-1 after we lost the doubles and then Darian taking care of business to level the tie at 2-2 and then with Kaipo’s match with the opponent serving at 5-4 for the match and then to come back and win in front of everybody at home it’s just emotional. I can’t even describe it, it’s unreal,” he said.
In the earlier matches on Saturday, the Barbadian team of King and Matthew Foster-Estwick lost the doubles match to Oceania’s pair of Colin Sinclair and Brett Baudinet 6-4 6-7, 5-7.
The victory gave Oceania a 2-1 lead in the best of five rubber.
However, King, the island’s top player, returned to defeat Sinclair, Oceania’s top seed, 7-6, 6-3, to tie it at 2-2.