Category Archives: Davis Cup: Philippines

Can the Philippines do a Korea against Japan?

View more photos here.

Summer is here! It started last Friday. While it’s been raining and drizzling the past month, the sun roasted Cebu starting two days ago. No clouds covered and no rain showered Lapu-Lapu City. Yes. This was what we hoped for. And we got it. With near-freezing temperatures in Tokyo today, we prayed for the sun to show its might in Davis Cup Cebu. It did.

Cecil Mamiit won last Friday. He should have. He nearly did. After trailing 2-5 in the fourth set, everybody expected Cecil to lose. But, given his resilient Filipino heart, he refused to quit. He won the fourth set in a tiebreaker. In the fifth set, he led 4-0. As we looked at Tatsumi Ito’s facial language, we knew it was over. It was 1-0, Advantage, Philippines. Yehey! we shouted. My seatmate, Meyrick “Jacs” Jacalan, at that point, told my wife Jasmin, “I’ll run naked on court if we lose!” Jacs lost the bet (but was stopped from fulfilling his promise by his wife, Perl!).

We lost. In the most thrilling battle I’ve seen on a tennis rectangle, we lost the match in the fourth… we won it at 4-love in the fifth… we lost it again… we won it… until finally…. The Japanese, near-faltering, would not quit. Thus ensued a battle. Cecil had four match points, Mr. Ito had three match points–it was a see-saw battle. In the end, after 5 hours and 40 minutes–the longest and best-ever match my eyes have witnessed–Japan triumphed.  They won again last Friday in the 2nd match when Go Soeda bested Johnny Arcilla. Two-zero, Japan.

Yesterday was different. In the only doubles match of the entire weekend, Treat Conrad Huey was mad. As the sun burned the spectators, he, too, was burning inside. He served left-handed aces. He hammered the ball so hard in one forehand it almost hit the opponent in the chest.

He didn’t want to lose. Not yesterday. Not on his debut match in the Visayas. Not in front of boisterous Cebuanos. He and Cecil Mamiit played flawless doubles tennis–subduing the visitors in three, easy sets. That straightforward game was important, especially for Cecil who– after Friday’s near-six-hour match plus yesterday’s doubles–will play the first reverse singles today.

Today, it’s Cecil Mamiit vs. Go Soeda, our No. 1 vs. their No. 1. Then, it’s No. 2 Tatsumi Ito against Treat Huey. Down 1-2 in this best-of-five series, we need to win today’s two singles matches to clinch victory and make today’s birthday celebrant—Lapu-Lapu City Councilor Harry Radaza–the happiest man in Mactan.

Can we do it? I talked to Cecil moments after yesterday’s doubles and there was vengeance and intensity in his eyes. Almost, he won last Friday. Last year at this same month, he lost to the same Japanese he’ll face this 10 a.m.: Go Soeda. There’s retribution. There’s unfinished business to settle.

Can he do it? Yes, the Filipino can.    I saw Cecil win the gold in the Southeast Asian Games in 2005. During that moment, he was up against the top-ranked Thai, Danai Udomchoke. The Davis Cup tournament also saw Cecil do it against Korea last year. Down 0-2 last September, nobody expected us to win. The Koreans celebrated on Friday evening. They shouldn’t have. We won on Saturday. And Sunday. We beat Korea, 3-2.

Cecil can do it. Huey can, too. If this happens this March 6, 2011, it will be the craziest and most fulfilling comeback–possibly in Philippine tennis history.

TICKETS. Can you still watch? Yes. The P500 tickets are available at the Plantation Bay entrance. To get to watch two singles matches for this price is a bargain. But, while reading this, you’ve got to leave for Lapu-Lapu City now. The first match begins 10 a.m. And you wouldn’t want to miss the fiery sun—and the fiery spirit of Cecil Mamiit.

PHL v. JPN: Kaya nato ni, bai!

It all began last October. Randy Villanueva called. Can the Davis Cup be held in Cebu? the Philippine Tennis Association (Philta) Vice-President asked. We had discussed this issue before. My usual reply to Randy: Sure… but where? Cebu does not have an international-standard venue. Worse, where do we get the bleachers? I thought of Baseline. I inspected Cebu Country Club. We studied Casino Español. Will the SRP be possible? I phoned Harry Radaza. The newly-elected councilor of Lapu-Lapu City, I had long known Harry from our high school days at CIS. He was my brother’s basketball teammate. I knew him to be a sports fanatic.

The Hoops Dome was the first option. Seating 7,000 and air-conditioned, it was brand-new. But Randy asked for a hot, open-air venue. We wanted to fry the opponents. Councilor Harry visited Efren Belarmino of Plantation Bay. They inspected the area. Phone calls ensued. Randy and his father, Lito Villanueva, the Philta president, in a few days’ notice, landed in Mactan. We sat for a meeting with Mayor Paz Radaza. Within weeks last October… the deal was finalized. A three-day visit by Cecil Mamiit–pampered by a massage spa at Plantation Bay–sealed the deal.

TODAY. Well, tomorrow. Because here we are, just moments away from a historic party. Plenty has been written. We know the Japanese won our last three Davis Cup meetings by a wipeout score of 5-0. But two of these encounters were in Japan and all on either fast indoor carpet or hard-court.

The last two times we played Japan on the clay-court? We won. Our latest victory was in 1995. The invaders were led by Shuzo Masuoka, world ranked no. 46. We beat Japan. Led by Joseph Lizardo, Robert Angelo and Camoy Palahang–we won the last two singles matches and beat them, 3-2. This was 16 years ago. (Ironically, Angelo and Palahang are both coaches in Japan today.) On clay, we’ve won. On clay come Sunday at Plantation Bay, we wish for the same.

TIPS. To those making the Davis Cup trek, here are some pointers:

Cheer. During the Fans Day last week at Baseline, over a hundred spectators watched. Sadly, they were quiet. Few clapped. Nobody cheered. We hope this scenario doesn’t happen tomorrow. We hope for the loudest, most boisterous atmosphere that will rattle the Japanese. Shout. Roar. Trumpet those vocal cords. Wear a PH shirt. Display our colors. The so-called “home-court advantage” isn’t a reality until we scream. Scream!

Bring a cap. We hope the sun will be exposed in its fully, yellow shining glory. Wear a cap. Wear Rudy Project sunglasses. Bring an umbrella (just in case it rains–though you can’t use it on-court). Use sunscreen. From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., it will be hot.

Leave early. Tomorrow’s first match is 10 a.m. I suggest, if you reside in Cebu City, to leave at 8. Three days ago, it took me an hour just crossing the old Mactan Bridge. Also, there will be an opening ceremony to start tomorrow’s clash. It will start 9:30 a.m.

Tickets still available. While the P500/day tickets were unavailable last weekend, a few more are for sale today. Visit Planet Sports (Ayala) or Nike Stadium (SM) or call 0322390552.

Official Draw today. At 10 a.m. at the Lapu-Lapu City Hall, it will be the official “bunot-bunot” on who will play who. This is the tennis version of boxing’s “Official Weigh-In.” It’s when the players from both camps stand side by side. Though they’ve played each other before, there will be jitters.

TV coverage. For those who cannot watch the games live, here’s good news: We were able to ink a deal with TV5 (owned by Manny Pangilinan) for their new sports-and-news channel (Channel 29 or 41) to air the games.

Go, Philippines!!!

Our goal: To be PacMan in tennis shoes

For nearly an hour yesterday morning, I watched the Japanese players practice. They wore Yonex, a Japanese brand. Go Soeda, their No.1, donned a bright red shirt. His forehand and double-fisted backhand were just as bright: cross-court, down-the-line—he could pound the yellow ball to any corner. Their second-ranked netter, Tatsuma Ito, wore blue. Tall at 5’11”, his serve boomed. It echoed around the newly-build stadium of Plantation Bay. He’ll be a formidable and tall sight for our Pinoys.

Good thing the sun reappeared yesterday. After a full day of rain last Sunday, it was outdoor-court practice time for the players. The Japanese practiced from 10 a.m. until 12 noon. Our Filipino Davis Cuppers took the court from 2 to 4 p.m. After that, it was back to the Japanese. That’s how it will be today until Thursday—two hours alternating time until Friday’s “The Battle of Mactan.”

On paper, give the edge to the visitors. Go Soeda, based on the Davis Cup website, is ranked world no. 108. That’s high. His teammate, Tatsuma Ito, is world 168. Their third player, Yuichi Sugita, is no. 175.

Check out the flying flag on top of the waterfalls

The Pinoys? Cecil Mamiit, who had a ranking as high as no. 72, is now at 738 in the world. Treat Huey (doubles ranking no. 101) sits at 886 in singles. Based on numbers, we lose. But Davis Cup is not about numbers. So many a DC tie I’ve witnessed where—given the external factors (climate, surface, cheering/home court)—a much higher-ranked player succumbs to the pressure and wilts. He loses.

As a Filipino, we hope this happens. We hope, like Manny Pacquiao, who rose from obscurity to defy every handicap facing him (remember how we thought Oscar de la Hoya would destroy MP?)—we hope for the same from Pacquiao’s countrymen in tennis. Or how the Azkals—anonymous before last December—have now transformed into the darlings of sport. The ball is round. The sun, too, is round. We hope these two combine like doubles partners to weaken the invaders.

Looking down? We hope so.

SEE MORE DAVIS CUP PHOTOS HERE.

Seven reasons to watch the Davis Cup

Only five days remain before the first serve is smashed to start the Japan-Philippines tennis battle. Why make the trip to Plantation Bay Resort and Spa from March 4 to 6?

1) Be part of history. Never before in the sport of tennis has an event of this magnitude landed in our shores. This is major, major. No, it’s not a major Grand Slam event (there are only four: in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York) but, in this hemisphere, this is major.

2) Japan. Our country faces no better “enemy” than the Japanese. We have a long history with our neighbors. Our conquerors during World War II in 1941, they have also dominated our tennis rivalry at the Davis Cup. Out of 26 encounters, they’ve won 17, including our last meeting 12 months ago…

3) Beatable. Which brings me to “winnability.” Although we got blanked, 5-0, when we faced Japan in March of 2010, there are several changes involved today. First, the venue. Davis Cup is unique because the hosting alternates. This week, we host Japan; last year, we were the visitors and they played our squad on a lightning-fast indoor court with 5,000 screaming, wailing, howling Japanese. Now, it’s the opposite: it’s outdoor, slow (clay-court) and the ones banging drums and chanting PI-LI-PI-NAS will be Pinoys. Also, last year, the scores were close: Treat Huey (our player) lost in five sets; Mamiit, in four close sets. If we tweak the surroundings, who knows, the result (we hope) will be the reverse.

4) World-class. Everything about the Davis Cup is A-1. It’s an ace of a tournament. It began in 1900 as a friendly match between the Americans and the British. Today, it involves 125 nations and is officially “the world’s largest annual international team competition in sport.” It’s special. So is the court. So are the 1,500 bleachers, constructed by the Lapu-Lapu City government. So is, of course, Plantation Bay.

5) Hot. With this word, I mean literally. It will turn your skin color to red (or dark black!). With no roofing on top of the bleachers and with the games scheduled from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., you’ll be baked. Which is why you should watch. If our DC players can suffer from the heat (yes, we hope, for our team’s sake and given the winter season in Japan, that it will be hot!), then we can cheer for them under the scorching sun.

6) See the stars. The Japanese team is composed of Go Soeda, Tatsuma Ito, Yuichi Sugita and Takao Suzuki. (Their top-ranked netter, Kei Nishikori, ranked world no. 66, is not coming to Mactan. Good for us.) As for Team PHL, we have Cecil Mamiit (who also doubles as the captain), Treat Conrad Huey, Johnny Arcilla and Elbert Anasta (plus alternate PJ Tierro).

Mamiit, based in Los Angeles, is our Pinoy version of Michael Chang. He’s fast, tough, steady, tenacious. In his career, he has beaten Chang, Mark Woodforde and even Andre Agassi (who defaulted after leading, 6-0, 6-6).

Treat Huey, 25, is based in Virginia, U.S.A. His mother is from Manila. Like Nadal, he is left-handed. Now world-ranked 101 in doubles, his favorite quote is… “If winning isn’t everything, then why do people keep score?”

7) It’s three days. Unlike most one-day-only sporting events, the Davis Cup runs the entire weekend. On Friday, it’s the first two singles matches. (All are best-of-five.) On Saturday, it’s the crucial doubles match. And, on Sunday, it’s the reverse singles. Whoever wins three out of five, wins.

I often get asked: Which day is the best to watch? My answer: Every day. Friday is all-important (and electrifying) because it’s pressure-filled. If the score is 2-0 at day’s end, that gives the winning team huge confidence. If it’s 1-all, the next day’s doubles is pivotal. (BTW, the Mamiit-Huey tandem beat the same Japanese doubles team in the Asian Games two months ago.) Finally, Sunday. If the score is 2-1, the finale is the most breathtaking. Each day is riveting. Get your tickets today! Few are left at SM City’s Nike Stadium or at Ayala Center’s Planet Sports. See you in DC.

Photo Contest

Best Beach/Island Theme Tennis Outfit Photo Contest
Mechanics: ??1. The male or female model must be smiling and wearing a beach or island theme tennis outfit while holding a tennis racquet
2. Accessories such as swim goggles, floaters, music players and the like, are encouraged
3. To submit your photo entry, LIKE the fan page www.facebook.com/daviscuplapulapucity and post your photo on its wall.
4. In the photo caption, state the name of the photographer, address and contact numbers
5. Criteria for judging: ??*** Most number of photo LIKEs – 20%?*** Relevance to the theme – 50%?*** Creativity – 30%
6. The following prizes will be awarded to the contest winners: ??— First Prize —?Two (2) VIP season tickets?Overnight stay for 2 at Plantation Bay Resort & Spa ??— Second Prize —?Two (2) season tickets with reserved seats?Free day use of facilities for 2 at Plantation Bay Resort & Spa ??— Third Prize —?Two (2) free-seating tickets for 3 days?Open dinner for 2 at Plantation Bay Resort & Spa ??— Ten (10) Consolation prizes —?One (1) free-seating ticket each for 3 days
7. Deadline for posting of entries will be on March 1, 2011. Winners will be announced on March 2, 2011. The winning photos will be shown through a slideshow on the tournament dates.
8. For more information, kindly visit www.lapulapucity.gov.ph or call (+63 32) 341-1822 and look for Marizel.

Free! Plantation Bay stay, DC VIP tickets

Our tennis players arrived last Monday. Wearing blue-and-white shirts with PILIPINAS printed at the back, they carried with them giant tennis bags and even larger, jumbo-sized smiles. Excited. That’s how they looked. I helped welcome them at the airport. Thanks to Harry Radaza, we rode an open-air truck that transported our Davis Cuppers from MCIAA to Plantation Bay. Along the route, hundreds of schoolchildren stood. They cheered. Screamed. Waved flags. Loud music played. Fireworks erupted. Twenty cars, 33 motorbikes and hundreds paraded. Cecil Mamiit snapped photos with his Canon DSLR. PJ Tierro slapped high-fives. “So this is how it feels to be Manny Pacquiao!” I told Harry as hundreds lined the streets of Lapu-Lapu City.

What a welcome! “First-time pa ko ka experience ingon ani,” said Johnny Arcilla, our local No.1, in the press conference. If the Cebuano hospitality astounded our countrymen-visitors, what followed next had them dazzled. Minutes after landing in Plantation Bay, we walked. There, surrounded by 1,500 red and blue brand-new-smelling seats, sat the center stage that will be the focus of next weekend’s Battle of Mactan.

“Amazing,” said Mamiit, the 34-year-old captain who was once ranked world no. 72. Three months ago with Efren Belarmino, Randy Villanueva, Harry Radaza and myself, Cecil stood on the same spot. It was bare. Two rotten hard-courts slept. No bleachers stood. It was quiet.

Today, it’s the Australian Open transported from Melbourne to Cebu. World-caliber tennis will unfold when yellow Slazenger balls will be smothered. Racquet strings will snap. Arms, raised; victories, claimed. Japan? Philippines? Only three letters will stand… JPN or PHL. Go, PILIPINAS!

BASELINE. Since it’s a holiday in Cebu City today, why not watch the players? For the first time, get to see them train. At the Baseline tennis courts, they’ll practice from 2:30 to 5 p.m.

Treat (pronounced “Tret”) Conrad Huey you’ll watch. Same with J. Arcilla, Elbert Anasta, PJ Tierro and C. Mamiit. They’ll use up two courts. They’ll exchange hundreds of forehands. After, they’ll sign autographs and smile for photos. Be there for today’s open session Fans Day.

FB CONTEST. Here’s your chance to win an overnight stay for two at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa. And, with it, a pair of VIP tickets (priced at P5,000 each) to the Davis Cup, scheduled this March 4 to 6. The game is simple. Log-in to Facebook and go to “DavisCupLapuLapuCity.” Read the mechanics. All you need is a photo in beach wear holding a racquet… send the picture and–TA-DA!–who knows, you just might be sipping fresh mango juice while sunbathing at one of Asia’s best. Visit FB now.

Tennis treat awaits Treat, Cecil & Co.

The Japanese are coming!!! But, before they do, our Pinoys have arrived. Yesterday afternoon, with 11 days left before the Davis Cup begins, our Philippine tennis squad landed in Lapu-Lapu City. While the Japanese invade us this Saturday, our PHL team is here many, many hours prior to showtime.

They’ll step on the clay-court that was built brand-new by Plantation Bay. They’ll slide, serve, smother forehands and smell the air of Mactan. They’ll acclimatize. They’ll visualize next Sunday’s victory parade while carrying the flag. They’ll practice. They’ll hope that the Japanese–coming from near-freezing temperatures (it was 4 degrees Celsius in Tokyo yesterday)–will get scorched and flamed by our sun.

Davis Cup is unlike any other. It’s not one player versus another. It’s Philippines against Japan. It’s like boxing’s Pinoy Pride where Mexicans battle our own. It’s the same. Only it’s tennis. And, with tennis, we’ve never seen this giant-sized event before.

Plantation Bay Resort and Spa is the peerless site. Voted one of Asia’s best, the Pinoys and the Japs have the impeccable resort venue to unwind after grueling 5-setter matches. Davis Cup, a 111-year-old tournament involving 137 nations, is world-class. It’s just befitting that a first-rate resort play hosts.

The City of Lapu-Lapu is the organizer. Envisioned to be the sports tourism capital of our 7,107 islands, Mactan is perfect. It has plenty of water, sand and clay. Ideal for play—and, for that tennis court made of clay. Also, it was on this island where the first death of a tourist was recorded: Ferdinand Magellan was slaughtered on April 27, 1521.

Lapu-Lapu crucified him. Will Lapu-Lapu—the city—do the same? Be the venue where the Japanese tennis stars will be vanquished? Yes. I hope so. Most of all, I hope you get to watch. (Tickets, priced at P500/day or P2,500/reserved, are available at SM’s Nike Stadium or Ayala Center’s Planet Sports.)

Sports fan or not, you’ve got to make a beach outing next weekend to Marigondon. Witness how swords transform to racquets. Blood, in the form of defeat, will be spilled on clay. Speaking of clay, I had a feet-on (not hands-on) experience last Friday. I stepped on the court. It’s splendid. The bleachers? Wow. It’s comparable to the U.S. Open or the Beijing Olympics. It’s of the highest standards. Every single blue-colored seat is worth your ticket.

Cecil Mamiit. Treat Huey. Johnny Arcilla. Elbert Anasta. PJ Tierro. These are our players. And, if you want to get a glimpse of them prior to the Davis Cup from March 4 to 6, they’ll be at the Baseline tennis courts this Thursday, Feb. 24. A holiday (Charter Day), they’ll conduct practice sessions and autograph-signing from 2 to 4 p.m. Be there. You’ll see slice backhands and topspin volleys. Watch the Azkals of Tennis.

Boom’s booming business; Nadal in Cebu?

Will Rep. Manny Pacquiao get to fulfill his goal of meeting Pres. Barack Obama? Let’s see. Let’s hope so. For if it happens, what a dream photograph moment for MP. Everybody wants a picture with Obama. (Remember GMA?) I hope Pacman gets his Oval Office wish.

SUPER. Apart from the half-time show, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, the fireworks and the actual Steelers-Packers game, the Super Bowl is known for another contest: Advertisements. Each Super Bowl TV ad costs a monstrous $2.6 million. Computed in pesos, per 30-second advertisement, that’s P113,282,000.

Of the several 2011 Super Bowl advertisements I’ve seen, here are my favorites…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R55e-uHQna0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCdnFMp6s84

PALARO. DepEd has released details pertaining to the complaints raised about the Palarong Pambansa selection for Region VII: “Only basketball, football, baseball, sepak takraw, softball and volleyball will conduct evaluations.” This is both good and bad. Good because the rest of the athletes (individual sports) will no longer undergo the confusing “performance evaluation.” Bad because, until now, nearly three months after the Cviraa in Dumaguete City, the final composition of the above-mentioned ballgames has yet to be completed.

BOOM. Rey Bautista and Jason Pagara were our guests last Tuesday at the Rotary Club of Cebu West meeting at the Cebu Country Club. With at least five mega-events organized by the ALA Promotions this 2011—plus, of course, the global power of a certain congressman from Sarangani—Philippine boxing is at its peak today.

Benjie Cimafranca, Roger Un, Ronnie Medalle, Jason Pagara, John Pages, Boom-Boom B., Edito Villamor, Maxwell Espina, Chad Cañares, Nilo Domingo and Philip Tan

Staying up past 10:30 p.m. two nights ago with Boom-Boom, Jason, Chad Cañares and Edito Villamor at the Frostbite Dessert and Yoghurt store (along Juan Luna Ave.), what impressed me most about Boom-Boom was his business acumen. Not wanting to throw his money to waste, he explained to our group (Justin Uy, Johnny Siao, Nilo Domingo, John Young, Camilo Ceniza, Dr. Benjie Cimafranca) his “Booming” venture. He bought several passenger vans and has an expanding V-hire business in Bohol. Plus, during times when he’s available, he drives the van himself–complete with a side-trip tour of his home in Candijay, Bohol. Impressive, Boom-Boom!

NBA. Can you believe the strength of a Carmelo Anthony-powered L.A. Lakers? Rumors are swirling that Andrew Bynum will be traded for the Denver Nuggets superstar. Wow, if that happens, the Anthony-Bryant-Gasol trio will not only rival the Three Kings of Miami—it will also be hard to imagine any other NBA final but the Lakers-Heat.

The Cavaliers? Ouch. Don’t you pity Cleveland? Like a groom left at the altar by a bride who sped away minutes before the “I do’s,” LeBron’s former team has lost 25 straight games. Their standing is 8-44.

NADAL. After his rival Roger Federer won the Laureus Sportsman of the Year award from 2005 to 2008, it’s now Rafa Nadal’s turn. (The past two years were won by Usain Bolt.) In a ceremony in Abu Dhabi, the 24-year-old Spaniard was conferred the trophy. “For me, the most important thing is not being No. 1,” said Nadal, “but to be healthy and keep being competitive in every tournament I play.” Wise words. For someone who plays an all-out physical game that endangers his body, Nadal’s strongest opponent is not Roger, Novak or Andy—it’s the expected breakdown of his body.

Speaking of Spain, would you believe that, if we win the Davis Cup tie against Japan this March 4 to 6 in Lapu-Lapu City… and then we win the next one against either New Zealand or Uzbekistan… then we have a chance to play Rafa? I’m not joking. We are two Davis Cup victories away from joining the highly-prized World Group (top 16 nations including France, U.S., Switzerland…). The last time we entered that group was back in 1991. I flew to Manila and watched Felix Barrientos and Roland So at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium battle against Sweden (whose star, Stefan Edberg, opted not to join; Sweden still won 5-0).

It’s a long shot but… you never know. (If the Azkals can do it…) And speaking of dreams: imagine if we beat Japan, beat NZ/Uzbekistan, draw Spain… and the Davis Cup against Nadal is played in Plantation Bay!

Davis Cup player Cecil Mamiit with Sun.Star’s Marian Baring

Watch ‘Boom Boom Pow’ this Saturday

With the exception of Manny Pacquiao, no other athletes I’ve written about more on this box than Rafa and Roger. In Melbourne for the Australian Open, both, thus far, are en route to another No.1 vs. No.2 showdown. This rivalry bests any other in tennis history. There have been plenty: Sampras-Agassi, Graf-Seles, McEnroe-Borg, Evert-Navratilova. But none compare to R & R. Consider this most unbelievable of statistics: 21 of the last 23 Grand Slam singles champions have been either Federer or Nadal. This is wonderful news for fans of both–but awful for the rest of the ATP Tour.

Roger, of course, is the defending champion of Australia. He’s the Wizard of Oz. He’s appeared in 22 career Grand Slam finals–and won 16. Rafa? He’s aiming for the ‘Rafa Slam.‘ Having won the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2010, if he wins this Sunday at the Rod Laver Arena, that’s four straight majors. Roger hasn’t done that. The last man is R. Laver himself, who accomplished the feat in 1969.

BOOM-BOOM. I’m watching this Saturday. So will over a dozen of my fellow members from the Rotary Club of Cebu West, many of whom are first-time, live-boxing watchers. It’s Rey Bautista–possibly the most famous Filipino on boxing gloves next to Pacquiao and Donaire. His opponent this Jan. 29 at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino? He’s a Barrera. And, in Mexico, this family name carries a lineage of champions.

Boom-Boom (center) in this Sept. 2007 photo with (from left) John Pages, Edito Villamor, Jingo Quijano and Jun Migallen

Boom-Boom is exciting to watch because, as his name implies, he boxes to the tune of will.i.am’s hit song, Boom Boom Pow. He’s offensive. He’s self-assured and domineering.

I know plenty of devotees will watch. My hope is that the non-boxing enthusiast will parade to the Waterfront this Saturday, too. Live, watching-with-your-bare-eyes boxing is so much different–and thrilling–than viewing from your TV set. Try it out this weekend.

DAVIS CUP. Harry Don Radaza, the councilor and city council sports and tourism head of Lapu-Lapu City, has news for all: This Friday, tickets to the Philippines vs. Japan tennis event called Davis Cup will finally be for sale. Planet Sports in Ayala Center’s Active Zone and (hopefully, given the permission) Nike Stadium at the SM City will be the official ticket outlets.

PBA. In a contest between the Danding Cojuangco-owned San Miguel Beer and the Manny V. Pangilinan-owned Talk N Text, the winner in Game One was the Tropang Texters of MVP. That game was in Victorias City. Game Two–tomorrow–is back in Metro Manila at the Cuneta Astrodome. Expect this best-of-seven series to be a see-saw battle.

NFL. Far, far away from our 7,107 islands, the top story in American sports was the National Football League. Just two nights ago, two teams emerged winners and will face each other in Super Bowl XLV. It’s the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Green Bay Packers. The Super Bowl–the single most important day in U.S. sports–will be on Feb. 6 at the venue where Manny Pacquiao won twice: the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Like I’ve done in the past, I’ll definitely be late for work that Monday morning (Feb. 7 here) to watch.

M & M. If there’s Rafa-Roger, there’s a version in boxing. When will Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Jr. finally silence his blabbering mouth to fight Manny Pacquiao? In another twist to the numerous curves and turns in this spiraling story, Floyd said he’ll fight Manny.

“I want to talk to my fans,” he said, in an online video reportedly made last weekend. “Okay, I got y’all… I’m never gonna let my fans down. Not me. That’s the reason why I’m 41-0.”

Ever the braggart, he continued… “Don’t worry we’re gonna beat Poochie-iao’s ass. Stop asking the same question. ‘When are you gonna fight Poochie-iao?’ I’m gonna fight the Pacman. Do me a favor… I’m gonna fight the Pacman when he is off the power pellets.”

Here he goes again, calling our Pinoy champ names. Again, he accuses MP of taking ‘power pellets.’ Like you, I can’t wait when Manny will finally extinguish his foul mouth via a boom-boom knockout.

Xterra and Davis Cup: Marching towards March

By now, you’ve heard that the Davis Cup tennis event will be held in Cebu. The Davis Cup is one of sport’s longest-running tournaments. It started in 1900. It encompasses 137 nations joining.

Here in Cebu, from March 4 to 6, we will host the DC tie between the Philippines and Japan. The venue, befitting this world-class battle, is a world-class facility: the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa in Lapu-Lapu City.

There will be five matches during this first weekend of March. On Friday (March 4), it’s the first two singles matches. Cecil Mamiit and Treat Huey will separately clash with Japan’s Nos. 1 and 2. Most-likely, the Japanese will be led by Tatsuma Ito, Go Soeda, Takao Suzuki and Toshihide Matsui. On Saturday, it’s the lone doubles match. On Sunday, it’s the reverse singles: the final two matches. All games will be best-of-five sets.

For tennis and for Cebu, this is gigantic. Tennis players will surely troop to Plantation Bay to gaze, to clap, to sing, “Pinoy Ako, Pinoy,” and to yell, “GO, PILIPINAS!” Non-tennis fans? Why, it will be the same: the boisterous atmosphere, the momentous occasion, the PHL flags hoisted fronting the JPN flags–this is an encounter never to be missed. That’s tennis. That’s Davis Cup.

Well, here’s even more significant news for Cebuanos. On this same first-weekend-of-March, this won’t be the only international-brand event.

XTERRA. The “X” stands for the cousin of the “X-Games.” Because when we think of “X” and “X-Games,” we think of this word: XTREME. We also think of these: adventure, risk, thrill. That’s Xterra. By definition, Xterra is “the world’s leading off-road triathlon series… with 60 races around the world.”

It’s triathlon. But, with mud, with off-road paths, with rocky terrain–all mixed as part of the ingredients for a wild and wet triathlon. Xterra is brought to the Philippines by Fred Uytengsu. We all know Mr. Uytengsu: he’s the businessman/sportsman owner of the Alaska Aces PBA team. He also brought to our nation (and Camarines Sur) the Ironman 70.3.

XTERRA Philippines website

For the first time in the Philippines, he’s taking Xterra to our shores. Not in Manila; but right here in Cebu. On March 6, 2011. Yes, I repeat: the same weekend as the Davis Cup. No doubt, this will be the grandest morning in sports for Cebu. Possibly, ever. Two international brands. Two world-caliber events. Both on the same 3-6-11.

XTERRA Philippines will be held in Liloan. The start/finish area will be at Amara, the premier subdivision owned by the Ayalas (Cebu Holdings, Inc.). The swim is 1.5K, followed by a 35K mountain-bike around the rough off-roads of Liloan. Then, a 10K run–using trail running shoes–in an out-and-back course. All to start and finish in Amara. Liloan Mayor Duke Frasco–a runner whom I’ve seen join several of our Cebu 10Ks–is embracing this event fully. Same with Gov. Gwen Garcia, the mother-in-law of Duke, who is set to formally announce this contest soon. Danao City sports chief Boying Rodriguez, an institution in cycling and triathlon in our island, is one of the lead organizers.

Conflict? Will “DC” and “X” be in direct combat? No and Yes. First, the venues. They’re separate. Tennis is in Lapu-Lapu City while Triathlon is in Liloan.

The crowd? Again, no clash. The brand-new tennis clay-court built by Plantation Bay will have bleachers to seat 1,500 spectators. Xterra? From what I learned, only 200 participants are expected to join. That’s because the entry fees are expensive. Possibly, the fees are $150/person or $180/relay team. (Yes, relay teams — separate swimmer, biker, runner — are welcome.)

The only minor “tug-of-war” between these two? For us, the media. Who’ll grab the headlines? Will there be enough manpower to cover both? Imagine the odds of two mega-sporting-brands happening on exactly the same year, same month, same weekend?

Well, it is. And it’s great for Sugbu. Are you and I not lucky to be living here? For, as Jay Aldeguer and his Islands Souvenirs would proclaim…  I (heart) CEBU.

Davis Cup

Three months from now, one of Cebu’s most monumental of sporting events fires an ace. It’s Japan versus the Philippines. The dates are March 4 to 6 and the venue is one of Asia’s top vacation destinations, Plantation Bay Resort and Spa.

The Davis Cup is preeminent because it’s 110 years old. Nearly 150 nations each year join to win that Cup that’s in honor of its founder, Dwight Davis, who, amazingly, happened to be the Philippines’ Governor General from 1929 to 1932.

Lapu-Lapu City, headed by Mayor Paz Radaza, is organizing this historic weekend. It will be hotly-contested. And, when I say “hotly-contested,” I mean literally “hot,” for we will have an outdoor atmosphere that will challenge–and hopefully, defeat–our Japanese invaders, who will be coming from their cold, winter season.

PHL and JPN have played each other in Davis Cup 26 times—with Japan leading 17-9. The last time our country beat Japan was 15 years ago. But, with the slow clay-court and plenty of hot sun, we hope the next one will be three months from now in Plantation Bay.

Japan, beware of Lapu-Lapu’s sword!

Our first Filipino hero was not Emilio Aguinaldo or Jose Rizal or Manny Pacquiao. He was a Cebuano. On the morning of April 27, 1521, right here along the shores of Mactan, a tribal chieftain, armed only with primitive swords and crooked spears, bloodied and massacred Ferdinand Magellan. Lapu-Lapu won. Cebu won. The Filipinos stood victorious. This was 489 years ago.

Can we repeat the same next year? From March 4 to 6? When another group of invaders will land in Lapu-Lapu City, ready to fight with their wristbands, forehand grips and swords? Yes. This event promises to be one the biggest spectacles in Cebu in 2011. For this clash is not between two PBA teams or Palaro players or our Region VII against NCR.

It’s nation versus country. It’s us, Filipinos, against them. It’s the Davis Cup.

What is DC and who is Mr. Davis? This event using modern day swords—tennis racquets—is one of the world’s most prestigious of tournaments. Starting in 1900 when Great Britain played the U.S., the founder was Dwight Davis, an American tennis champion. But that’s not the believe-it-or-not fact about Davis. Here it is: From 1929 to 1932, he served as Governor General of the Philippines. He led our nation for three years under the U.S. presidency of Calvin Coolidge. And so Davis—and his Cup—have a special meaning for us, Filipinos.

Today, over 134 nations join. Two of these nations will clash at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa four months from today. Japan. Philippines. This is a first. The first time that the Davis Cup—since we joined in 1926—will be held outside Manila. The privileged name who will play hosts? Cebu. The city? Named after our first hero, Lapu-Lapu.

This is fantastic. A Friday-to-Sunday, March 4 to 6, 2011 event that will pit our best against Japan’s top netters. We have Cecil Mamiit. He’s in town today. I picked him up at the airport yesterday and, together with Randy Villanueva, the Philippine Tennis Association Vice-President and Davis Cup Administrator, we drove to Plantation Bay. We climbed Marco Polo Hotel and gazed at the view. Cecil practiced with Jacob Lagman.

I first watched Cecil at the 1999 U.S. Open. Next, I saw him win the gold medal for our nation in the 2005 South East Asian Games in Manila. The theme song then was “Pinoy Ako.” He’s tenacious, fast and, like Michael Chang, never gives up. Once ranked world # 72, Cecil will be joined by another Fil-Am, Treat Huey, plus Johnny Arcilla.

Can we beat Japan? No, we have not defeated them in 15 years—the last time was when Joseph Lizardo and Robert Angelo beat the Shuzo Matsuoko-led team, 3-2. We’ve lost to Japan the last three times, including last March in a 5-0 drubbing in Osaka.

But, yes, we can beat Japan. In our recent losses, several matches have gone five sets. That’s close. And, let’s remember, when Japan last defeated us, the surface was a fast indoor court—not Cecil’s favorite.

In Lapu-Lapu City this March, it will be a slow clay-court without roofing so we can cook the Japanese alive on the tennis rectangle. History? We’ve played 26 times, with Japan winning 17. But, on the two occasions when the surface was clay—guess who won? Pinoys. Plus, there’s the crowd factor. In Davis Cup, the host nation has the advantage of a screaming, rowdy and ear-splitting audience. Mo syagit ta ug kusog!

Harry Radaza is to be thanked for this event. The new Councilor of Lapu-Lapu City is the chairman of his city’s sports and tourism committees. He’s also the chairman of the organizing group of this Davis Cup tie. His support—and, of course, that of Mayor Paz Radaza—are essential.

There’s Efren Belarmino of Plantation Bay. As Nimrod Quiñones put it in The Freeman yesterday, Efren is one of his “favorite generals” in Mactan. That’s because Efren is the general manager of Plantation Bay. The five-star luxury resort will build a brand-new clay-court and will host the Philippine players and officials.

So, fellow Cebuanos, this March… it’s Game, Set, and Match.