Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tennis: Diary of a Davis Cup Newbie

Aside from football, I have been an avid follower of the sport of Tennis for as long as I can remember.

Last year I was fortunate to be able to witness live, for the first time it must be said, a Davis Cup tie. This was not just any tie, it was a tie between our Philippines vs New Zealand. Stakes were high as the winner would progress to Group 1 in the Oceania Zone.

I watched and came away with my love for tennis stronger than before. I was able to put my thoughts on paper, but it was not published publicly.

Fast forward April 2014, it is Davis Cup weekend once again in Manila. I hope many come and support our tennis players as they battle for flag and country. It also provides me with an excuse to share My Davis Cup Experience last year.


My Davis Cup Experience

(PHILTA VP and Davis Cup Administrator Randy Villanueva, Treat Huey, PJ Tierro, Johnny Arcilla, Ruben Gonzales, and captain Roland Kraut) Pic c/o Randy Villanueva

September 2013

It was getting dark and as the taxi meter inched towards the 250 peso mark, I was getting apprehensive. My early head-start had been for naught; it wasn’t supposed to be this far -- and this expensive -- to Plantation Bay Resorts Cebu.

But I was excited to make the journey. This wasn’t any other weekend.

It was Davis Cup weekend in Cebu, and the Philippines had a chance to advance to the Oceania Zone Group 1, where the likes of Australia and Japan ply their wares.

To get there, the Philippines had the small matter of trying to beat fellow Group 2 finalists New Zealand in a best of five set format.

The Philippines had the advantage of playing at home and in a slower surface more suited to our strengths, but results didn’t go our way as we lost our first two matches on Day 1, setting up a do-or-die third match on Day 2.

Doubles specialists Treat Huey and Francis “Nino” Alcantara were on tap against their Kiwi counterparts and nothing could’ve prepared me for the outpouring of Filipino pride that followed.

A small but loyal Filipino gallery turned up in support of our tennis stars and they made themselves heard more and more as the night wore on.

From the innovatively synchronized cheers in support of our players, to the spontaneous and the cheeky double entendre Cebuano shouts of “Puso!” the crowd undoubtedly played a huge part in lifting the spirits of Huey and Alcantara.

Kaholero and local football club shirts were spotted in the gallery – proof that love of country transcends any sport.

The hushed silence of every Filipino point lost was offset by the natural and unrestrained cheers of every Filipino point won. As the night wore on, the cheers grew louder, stronger and more frequent.

Moments of forced silence as players prepared to serve are broken by pent up emotion released by a backhand winner down the line by Alcantara, or by a fantastic lob from Huey.

The umpires pleading cries for “Quiet Please” can only go so far in silencing an emotional crowd, one hungry for heroes for the night. Treat and NiƱo did not disappoint, keeping Philippine hopes alive via a rain delayed straight sets victory. 

Day 3 will see the Philippines agonizingly deprived of victory in the wee hours of the morning, consigning us to Group 2 for one more year.

But on a night where Filipino tennis greats Johnny Arcilla, Juan Jose and the late Raymundo Deyro were honoured by the ITF, this fan was fortunate to be among the witnesses to the indomitable passion and togetherness that sport – and cheering for one’s country -- brings. 

It was my first Davis Cup. But thanks to Ruben Gonzales, Johnny Arcilla, Nino Alcantara and Treat Huey, it most certainly won't be my last. 

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