Federer vs. Sampras: What a dream match

“How can a dream come true if you don’t dream?”

Among all the sayings and mottos that I know, that’s one of my favorites. Isn’t it true? If you want something so bad, if you long to achieve that seemingly-impossible feat—how can you reach it if, to start with, you don’t dream?

Dreams are essential. Without dreams, Neil Armstrong wouldn’t have stepped on the moon. Lea Salonga would not be singing in Broadway. Bill Gates would be a bespectacled professor instead of the world’s only $59 billion man. And Martin Luther King, Jr. wouldn’t have ignited such passion among Americans and delivered one of history’s all-time great speeches, “I Have A Dream.”

My dreams? Plenty. Add a brother or sister to my eight-year-old daughter Jana. Build our business. Run the 42-km. marathon. Watch the Beijing Olympics. Build a 12-court Cebu Tennis Center.

These dreams—though I’m confident all will be realized—take time. Months. Maybe years. But there’s one dream that’s happening soon. To be exact, November 22, 2007.

Pete Sampras vs. Roger Federer.

Categorized as Tennis

Executives don’t sleep, they run

Cebu Executive Runners Club members

I woke up at 4:20 a.m. Drank coffee, changed into a sleeveless shirt, tied my shoelaces and left at 4:45. When I arrived at Sug-angan Restaurant along J. Llorente St., I met five men. At 5 in the morning two days ago—last Sunday—while the whole Cebu snuggled in bed, these five runners dripped with sweat that flowed down their cheeks.

Dr. Vic Verallo had ran 12 kms. They started pounding the asphalt at 3 a.m. Can you believe that? Jess Taburada was with Dr. Vic, so were Serge Amora and Joven Vilasor. Meyrick Jacalan, like me, just arrived.

Tired? Were they panting? Did their knees look wobbly? No. They had just warmed-up. After 12,000 meters. At 5 a.m.

We ran. We circled Fuente Osmeña, jogged along B. Rodriguez, turned right to V. Rama, down Banawa and stopped after the Labangon intersection. We bought water then ran back. Upon reaching Arcenas Estate, we turned left then toured the compound. Next, we headed back to Osmeña Boulevard, finishing with a 300-meter sprint before we reached Medalle Building. My watch read “1:11.” We had finished at over an hour and ran over 10 kms.

Tired? Panting? Wobbly legs? Not these runners.

Categorized as Running

The man called Pacman

Last Friday, I sat eight feet away from Manny Pacquaio. It was his last training session here in Cebu and—together with my dad Bunny, fellow columnist Atty. Jingo Quijano, and The Freeman sports editor Manny Villaruel—we watched Pacman spar for 10 rounds at the Rex “Wakee” Salud Gym. After sparring, he stretched, did skipping rope, toyed with the speed bag, and laid on the floor to do crunches.

Is he in shape? In excellent shape. At the end of over three training hours that would land you and I in Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital, Manny didn’t frown or drop his shoulders—he smiled, danced, sang.

ARA MINA. Yes. She’ll sing the National Anthem at Pacquiao’s October 6 fight. Questions have flourished: Has the boxer fallen in love with the sexy starlet? Did he ask her to sing to inspire him that night? Or is this a ploy to help promote their upcoming movie, “Anak ng Kumander,” which included, from what I’ve read, a kissing scene which took all of nine takes? Whatever the reason, our only request is this: Ara Mina, please don’t do a Christian Bautista.

On the greens, the winner is Green

Last Thursday, the La Salle basketball squad beat Ateneo, 70-69, for the No.2 spot in the UAAP Championships. That was basketball. At the Araneta Coliseum.

Golf? In Cebu? For the past five years, Ateneo has trounced La Salle. Ever since the Ateneo-La Salle Golf Classic was established—never mind the golf course colored all-green—Green has lost to Blue.

Not anymore. Not this year. Not when I hear fellow Lasallians say, “Nobody beats us six in a row!”

Green archer hits eagle, who falls, turns blue

It wasn’t the NBA Finals. It wasn’t Manny Pacquaio vs. Marco Antonio Barrera. It wasn’t Tiger Woods or Roger Federer collecting trophy No. 3,805. It wasn’t even the Joey de Venecia expose against the First Gentleman.

It was better. La Salle versus Ateneo. Game 3. Araneta Coliseum. Last Tuesday at 3 p.m.

I arrived at Hola España minutes into the First Quarter. As I entered, Cisco Jarque smiled. Ed Gonzales sat beside him. Bobby Martinez was at the center. Brothers Chito and Mark Cusi offered me a seat while Ryan Yu sat to the left. Gerry Malixi wore green.

Green. If you weren’t green last Tuesday, you were an outcast. You had no place to sit, stand, squat, or breathe inside Hola España, the cozy resto-bar along the Ma. Luisa Estate Park road painted one color.

It’s baaack! La Salle versus Ateneo

Is there a rivalry that can rival this rivalry? Is there a school that abhors the other as much? Is there an institution that grimaces at the mention of the other’s name? Is there a title other than the UAAP basketball crown that both teams lust for and hunger after more than any other?The two-letter answer? NO.

The four-letter initials of these two teams? ADMU. DLSU.

The first school is color blue. Founded in 1859, it’s main campus resides in Loyola Heights, Quezon City, and it’s basketball squad is called “Blue Eagles.” Among it’s alumni is someone you and I know: Jose Rizal. And, with it’s Level IV accreditation (the highest possible) from PAASCU, it is one of only two universities in the Philippines to receive such an honor.

The other university? It’s color green. Founded in 1911, it has 18 campuses scattered around the archipelago and it draws inspiration from the life of its founder, Saint John Baptist de La Salle. On the basketball floor, the team is called “Green Archers.”

Ateneo De Manila University. De La Salle University.

From their nicknames alone—Eagles and Archers—one can conclude that these two are the fiercest of rivals. Think about it: An eagle flies. An archer shoots whatever flies.

Gerry Malixi

One of the funniest guys you’ll meet is my good friend Gerry Malixi. With the above photo, here’s the text of the e-mail he sent me last week: “I was VERY BUSY yesterday but since this guy people call “PACMAN” practically begged to have his photo taken with me, I had to oblige.”

Gerry’s funny. He’s also a big sports fanatic. Here’s a full-length article I wrote about Gerry last April 6, 2006 entitled “Like Son, Like Father.”

Gerry Malixi plays basketball. He plays volleyball. He plays badminton. He lifts weights, swims and, on a square ring wrapped with rope, he boxes. He watches tennis on ESPN and marvels at James Blake and this guy named Roger. Next week, he’ll troop to the Mandaue Coliseum to watch Dennis Rodman and the NBA All-Stars. And on July 2 at the Araneta Coliseum, he’ll scream for Manny Pacquiao to cook a Mexican taco called Oscar Larios.

I know many sports men, sports aficionados, sports lovers. But few match the passion and fanaticism of Gerry Malixi.

Categorized as Basketball

In the War of Stars, ‘Darth Federer’ slays ‘Choke-ovic’

He wore black. From his hair to his headband, to his shorts, T-shirt, wristbands, and down to his shoes and socks, he wore the only color your eyes can see when it’s brownout and your watch reads 1:38 a.m. As soon as he entered the Arthur Ashe Stadium, you know what music the organizers of the 2007 U.S. Open played?

The theme song of Darth Vader. How fitting. You know Darth Vader: He’s dark. Black. Towering. Tall. Frightening. Ruthless. He carries a stick to capture and torture and slay his enemies.

Same with D’ Federer. All-black, he stands 6-foot-1 tall, scares human beings who stand across the tennis net, he’s ruthless on that rectangle and, doesn’t he carry a light saber called Wilson K-Factor which he swings to slay enemies?

Darth Federer.

He’s been labeled many names before—Federer Express, Swiss Master, Sir Roger, The Fed—but nothing I like more than this new moniker.

Categorized as Tennis

This just in: small Henin stands tall

She is short. In this planet inhabited by the 6-foot-2 Maria Sharapova, the 6-foot-1 ½ Venus Williams, and the 6-foot-1 starlet named Ana Ivanovic, she stands petite. She’s only 5-foot-5. To us Filipinos, that’s tall. But to women’s tennis, that’s small. Add to that her physique. She looks frail, thin, flat-chested and, even if she flexes hard those leg muscles, they’d still be thinner than Serena Williams’… arm!

She’s Justine Henin. Yet, if you watch her at 7 a.m. (RP time) today over cable TV channel 45, she’ll beat Svetlana Kuznetsova to win the 2007 U.S. Open.

How is this possible? Look at the women today. They’re all giants. Gone were the days of Billie Jean-King, who won a combined 39 Grand Slam titles—despite her 5’4” frame. Or Evonne Goolagong, the 5’6” Australian who moved with such grace and finesse that she looked like a ballerina wearing tennis shoes.

Today, tennis is all about five letters: P-O-W-E-R. Slam that forehand, rip that backhand, ace that serve, smother that volley. Bang, bang, bang. And, to those who’ve followed this sport for decades, you’ll have to agree with me on this: Height is might. And—just like in almost every other sport not named billiards or chess—the taller, the better.

Categorized as Tennis

Manny Pacquiao is ‘The Gambler’

With my brother Charlie

Although he calls the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino his home here, I haven’t seen Manny pulling the levers of slot machines or sitting on a high stool and rolling the dice to wager on Craps. It’s not that kind of gambling I’m speaking of.

It’s this: Manny loves taking risks. Inside the ring, you know his style. Does he hide behind those two red gloves to cover his mustache? No. Manny pounces. Attacks. He’s aggressive. Assertive. He knocks on the head of his enemy not to kiss him—but to tutor the student on the definition of “K.O.” He swings punches that break ribs and bend jaws. That’s Manny. He sees blood, goes for blood. For the risky shot. He gambles.

Take basketball. For the past two Sundays, I guarded Manny on the wooden parquet floor. Is playing this game of LeBron James, you ask, a gamble? Of course. Think about it: Who, in his right mind, would risk injury and play basketball weeks before a Las Vegas fight that would pay him P150 million?

No one. Except one. Manny.

Far left, that’s Manny with the jump-shot… That’s me (No.9)

Last week, I sat beside Freddie Roach at the lobby of Waterfront. He was alone and I introduced myself. We spoke about our basketball game—and how Manny and I collided and fell to the floor.