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.