Smashing! The Oz Open + Davis Cup

If you’re a tennis fan… last week, this week and next week are tennis heaven moments.

Monday last week, the Australian Open began. It’s the first Grand Slam tournament of 2013. It’s Down Under. It’s 41 degrees of scorching heat. It’s the blue court swarmed with shirtless, screaming fans. The only “negative” in Melbourne is the absence of one man: Nadal, Rafa. But the Three Kings are still present: King Roger, Mighty Novak, and Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray.

Among the ladies, Maria Sharapova is forever blonde, sexy and screaming. The 6-foot-1 poster girl of the WTA Tour will be hard to beat. Now that Serena Williams is out, I hope Maria (the ex-girlfriend of Dr. Nonito Narvasa) wins.

If there’s one major I’m itching to visit, it’s Australia. The continent is nearby. The tickets — unlike Wimbledon — are affordable. I remember, years back, staring at the photos shown to me by Atan Guardo in Rod Laver Arena. Same with Ernie Delco. These two Cebuano friends have seen the tennis Wizards of Oz. Hope to do the same soon — while Roger’s still (unlike Rafa) healthy.

The Oz Open lasts for two weeks. It ends this Sunday with the men’s final. How about next week?

SYRIA. It’s Davis Cup week. All around the globe, nations will compete in this annual country-vs-country meet. The Philippines? We’re hosting it. Where?

Where else but our very own, Cebu. Plantation Bay Resort and Spa will, for the third time, host the Davis Cup tie, this time called “Philippines versus Syria.”

In 2011, we faced and lost to Japan. Later that same year, we faced and lost to Chinese-Taipei (Taiwan). Will next weekend — February 1 to 3 — be different?

Let’s watch! Entrance is free. No kidding. Yes. All you need to do is to trek over to Mactan island, meander inside the world-class lagoon near Marigondon, and sit at the comfortable blue seats that surround the gray court.

Even better news: It won’t be hot. If you were present in the two previous DC events, you got burned. Because, with Cecil Mamiit as stalwart, we wanted to burn the opponents with our summer sun. Not this time.

This time, the first match will start at 3:30 P.M. Very comfortable. The schedule is as follows: On Friday (Day 1, February 1), it will be two singles matches, best-of-five. On Saturday, it will be the lone doubles match. On Sunday, it will be the two reverse singles matches.

Tennis lover or not, there’s no excuse for you not to attend. The Davis Cup — alongside another Azkals exhibition, the Ironman 70.3 and Xterra triathlons, the Cebu Marathon — is one of the year’s biggest sporting events. It’s international. It’s one on one. It’s right here at home.

Can we win this time? Yes. First, we have home-court advantage. This “tie” (in DC parlance, an event is called a “tie”) was supposed to have been held in Syria. But we know all the gunfire and bombings on-going there. So, it’s here. Two, the Syrians are not as formidable as the Japanese or Taiwanese. Three, there’s that loud, Sinulog-type Cebuano cheering. (For those who watched the PHL-Taiwan event, you’ll recall that some Taiwanese business owners here brought a “hakot” crowd — their employees — to cheer for Team Taiwan. This time, I doubt it there’ll be much cheering from Syria.)

Our players: Treat Huey, Ruben Gonzalez, Johnny Arcilla and Onyok Anasta. They’re familiar faces. Which is good because they’re familiar with the slow clay-court of Plantation Bay.

Team Philippines is expected to land at the MCIAA this Sunday. For the next several days, they’ll practice. On Wednesday night, it’s the official, by-invitation-only Welcome Dinner, participated-in by the ITF officials, the players, their coaches. On Thursday, the draw — who will face who — will happen. And, of course, on Friday, the fireworks — not by Dragon Fireworks, not in SM or in Ayala, and not at night — the tennis fireworks using rackets as weapons and yellow balls as bullets, will commence at 3:30. Go, PILIPINAS. See you there!

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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