Can Huey treat us to an Aussie win?

Treat Huey is Pinoy. His mother, a consultant of the United Nations, is Manina San Pedro-Huey. If you’re a tennis fan and watched one of the five Davis Cup ties held at the Plantation Bay Resort and Spa (thrice in 2013 and twice in 2011), then you must have seen Mr. Huey.

Here’s some good news: Treat (pronounced “Tret”) is in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. With partner Dominic Inglot, they defeated the seventh seeds (Bopanna/Qureshi) in the Men’s Doubles 4th round. Even better good news? Their next opponents are not the Bryan twins, Bob and Mike.

Huey and Inglot were en route to face the Bryans but, just yesterday, the American twins lost. It was their earliest exit in 11 years. Hurray! While I’m a fan of the Bryans, I’m a bigger fan of Treat. Here’s hoping that they broadcast their next match(es) on TV and that the Pinoy-British duo win three more matches to hoist that Aus-Open trophy.

On the Singles category, the twin shockers were Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova both losing. She had been dubbed Serena The Unbeatable. But against Ana Ivanovic, she became Serena The Beaten. It was refreshing to see the former world No. 1 from Serbia (Ivanovic) win a major fight. Since she won the French Open in 2008, Ana had been absent. She’s been on a decline. But after beating the local favorite Sam Stosur and Serena, she hopes to go all the way to the final this Sunday. Standing in her way in the Quarters today, the new favorite of my daughter Jana: Eugenie Bouchard, only 19 but with the looks and backhand to match Ivanovic.

Among the men, I wouldn’t bet against another Rafa Nadal and Nole Djokovic ending.

CEBU SPORTS AWARDS. Very soon, our group — the Sportswriters Association of Cebu (SAC) — will release the names of the awardees of the SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards. Led by our SAC president Rico Navarro, we had a meeting last week at the NL Cafe near SM City to deliberate on the nominees. The list includes world boxing champs, triathletes, ballplayers, martial artists, runners and more. Thanks to San Miguel Brewery, Inc. (led by Girlie Garces), we’ve jointly hosted this honoring of superstars every year. This March 2014 will be the 32nd edition.

AMERICAN FOOTBALL. If there’s one sport I’d love to watch live, it’s the NFL. Last Sunday in the U.S., they had the “semifinals.” The winners: the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. They’ll meet in the biggest sports night in America: the 48th edition of the Super Bowl. In the American Conference final, Denver defeated the New England Patriots. It was a contest between the two most popular quarterbacks: Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. In this rivalry, Manning led the Broncos with the winning score, 26-16. In the National Conference final, Seattle defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 23-17.

The Super Bowl is set on Feb. 2 in New York. Apart from an exciting game, the world can expect the most expensive TV advertisements to be aired and the best halftime show. The performers? Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

FLOYD. For now, Manny Pacquiao should just forget about Mayweather. He should just concentrate on his April 12 rematch bout against Timothy Bradley. Beat the undefeated (31-0) American convincingly, preferably before the 12th round, then see what happens next. The Manny-Money mega-fight will come at the right time. Now is not that moment.

Speaking of Pacman, I read Atty. Frank Malilong’s column last week about the Marco Polo Hotel dinner for a cause on Thursday night. The Sarangani congressman will share his life story. Tickets are reportedly selling for P1,800 to P2,200 with all the proceeds going to the Typhoon Yolanda rehabilitation efforts. The following day, according to Atty. Frank, the life sharing of Pacquiao will move to the Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City.

From a wild and reckless previous life, Manny is now a changed man devoted to his constituents, boxing, family and God.

Roller-coaster ride inside Plantation Bay

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Painful. Depressing. Bitter. Heartbreaking. These are some of the emotions and words that best describe last weekend.

The Phils-New Zealand fight at Plantation Bay Resort and Spa was a see-saw, you-never-know-who’s-going-to-win encounter.

Ruben Gonzales held match point in Game 1. We still lost. Rubin Statham of NZ led two-sets-to-love but succumbed to cramps; he could have lost but won. NZ up 2-0. Team Phils. won the 3rd match — the doubles, behind the superb quickness of Nino Alcantara and Treat Huey.

In last Sunday’s Game 4, Rubin (Statham) led Ruben (Gonzales) by two sets to one. After a rain delay, Gonzales recovered to force a fifth set — but trailed 3-5. He wins five of the next six games to triumph, 8-6, after four hours. From down to up, it was all-square, a 2-all tie.

Treat Huey, world no. 28 in doubles, emerged from the dugout to play Michael Venus. Fresh from his US Open stint the week before, Treat provides the Cebuano crowd a treat — he wins the first two sets, 7-5, 6-4. He toys with the male Venus (not Williams). Drop shots. Lobs. Slice forehands. This is it! we thought.

Time check: 12:30 a.m. (Yes, in the morning!) We were up… then down. Unexplicably, Treat’s first serve percentage went down. He lost the third set. And the fourth. The Kiwi scored aces. He tracked down the previously-unreachable drop shots. He fired gun shots from corners. Oh no!

Down 0-2 on Friday, we escaped with a 2-all tie and led two sets to love behind Treat by Sunday. But now, Monday dawn, the tide in Plantation Bay turned again — this time, with NZ winning the final point.

Painful. Devastating. More so because, for the dozens of us who stayed to cheer, we had come a few games away — so close — only to falter. And the clock read “1:50.” Yesterday morning! (Two city mayors — Paz Radaza of Lapu-Lapu City and my seatmate, Monico Puentevella of Bacolod — watched the entire show.)

In the end, like in all sporting endeavors, someone has to smile and someone has to frown.

TENSION. What added fire to the fight was a near-fight that ensued in the middle of last Sunday’s night’s two matches.

Out of nowhere, New Zealand’s captain, Alistair Hunt, a 6-foot-3 hulk of a Kiwi, confronted our own Randy Villanueva with these words, “Why don’t we settle this in the room!”

I was 20 feet away. At first, we were perplexed with their face to face encounter. Only after Randy pushed Alistair did we realize the threat that NZ’s captain made. He wanted a fight! Not to be contested on the clay court and by Babolat rackets — but, literally — a fight using fists.

Crazy. Good thing, amidst dagger looks and screaming, the two were restrained. Good thing also that Alistair didn’t throw a single jab; if he did, given that he barged into the territory where the Pinoys stood (beside the court), he could have been pummeled with fists of Pacquiao’s countrymen.

His aggressiveness was triggered by an earlier argument Randy had with one NZ team player and their team therapist. They exchanged harsh words during the Ruben-Rubin match.

Foolish. Uncalled-for. This act of Alistair. (And this is the guy with the Alistair Hunt Tennis Academy, who teaches children? What values you’re teaching, mate!)

“This is unprecedented!” Randy Villanueva shouted. True. Davis Cup is country versus country. It’s always heated. And the cheering and the drum-beating that we Filipinos exhibited — that’s mild and tame compared to the other boisterous Davis Cup settings.

We’ve been hospitable. The linesmen, honest. We welcomed these guests with our world-renowned Filipino hospitality. The aggressive, in-your-face threat by the team’s leader is disgusting.

END. Still, a loss is a loss. By 2 a.m. yesterday, as the resort winds cooled and the emotional heads cooled, the result was one we didn’t like but accepted. We lost. The Kiwis move up to Group 1 while we remain in Group 2. There’s next year. For now, as symbolic revenge, I’ll buy myself these brown-and-green fruits, slice them into chunks and gobble up these kiwis.

After New York, it’s D.C.

By “DC,” I don’t mean the U.S. capital. I mean “Davis Cup.” After two weeks of tennis at the United States Open in NYC, our attention shifts to the giant lagoon paradise called Plantation Bay Resort and Spa.

But first, Nadal… Now that he owns 13 Grand Slam singles titles, can Rafa overtake Roger Federer’s 17? Yes. I think Nadal will exceed Federer’s number. Only 27 years old, at the French Open alone — where he’s won 8 of 9 — that’s a guaranteed handful of trophies.

Wasn’t Rafa relentless in New York? He’s always been — but more so this 2013 because, deep inside, he knows that he could have been forever-retired at a white sand beach resort in Mallorca, Spain.

Injuries plagued him. He missed defending his Olympic title. He lost so many ATP points that, in his return after injury, he joined an unheard-of Chile event.

But he persisted. Nadal is the most persevering athlete to ever wield a stick. You know what? His knee injury turned out to be a blessing. A “blessing in disguise” we often term that. He rested. He was forcibly asked to go fishing. He performed rehab. Most of all, he changed his game. The spin remains. The pump fists endure. But this time, he developed a more potent 123-mph serve. He volleyed. He also stood inside the baseline — a rarity for the counter-punching Spaniard — to become the aggressor. Needing to finish points quicker than usual (to save his knees), he now attacks that yellow fluffy ball with the ferociousness of a left-handed butcher.

In the weeks to come, a return to the No.1 ranking is inevitable. A year-end top spot is guaranteed. From injury to triumph, that’s Rafa 2013.

PLANTATION BAY. Last night, coach Tommy Frederiksen and I joined the Welcome Dinner honoring the two squads who will do a Battle of Mactan: New Zealand and the Philippines.

These Welcome Dinners are always fun. When Thailand visited last April, their top netter Danai Udomchoke was forced to sing. Yes, in front of a hundred guests, he mustered the courage to do karaoke. One time against Japan, Lapu-Lapu City’s top councilor Harry Radaza spoke in Japanese. This stunned the visitors and had them giggling.

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The Davis Cup teams of the Philippines and New Zealand with the New Zealand Ambassador

This morning, it’s serious stuff: the Draw Ceremony. It’s also an occasion to formally introduce the players. An International Tennis Federation (ITF) representative presides — and coordinates the “bunot-bunot” on who-will-play-who.

Tomorrow, the fencing starts. I got the chance, last Monday, to watch Johnny Arcilla, Ruben Gonzales and Nino Alcantara practice at the Plantation Bay — guided by our captain, Roland Kraut, and coach, Chris Cuarto.

They did first-to-10 points, without serves. They’d just flick the ball via a forehand to start the point. Drop shots were practiced. Slice backhands barely skimmed the net. Next, they played tiebreaks. After that, they exchanged serves and returns. It ran from 4 to 6 p.m. From 6 p.m. onwards, the Kiwis practiced. They’re tall. Plus, given their rankings (higher than ours, except for Treat Huey’s in doubles), they’re good.

Tomorrow, we’ll find out. We own the crowd. We like and have grown accustomed to the clay court. This climate – although the rainy weather may pose as a spoiler – is ours.

At 3 p.m. tomorrow, a symbolic opening ceremony will mark the formal start of the Davis Cup tie. Minutes after the parade, it’s the warm-up and, bang – the first serve is struck.

The question as to who Filipinos will play tomorrow’s two singles matches is not known to anybody except the players and their coaching staff. We’ll know tomorrow – hours before the match. But I’m sure that Ruben Gonzales will play.

In the doubles on Saturday, it’s almost sure that it will be a Treat Huey and Nino Alcantara duo. They partnered against Thailand and were exceptional.

Doubles is fun. We rarely watch it on TV (though we play it often). But watching top-caliber doubles is more exciting than singles. It’s quicker. The crowd is livelier. Exchanges are like Pacman punches – plenty and fast.

Six reasons to watch the Davis Cup

The US Open begins on Monday. Who’s the favorite? No question: the lefty from Spain. As tenacious as a bull from Madrid and as prolific a scorer as the Spanish football World Cup champs — Rafael Nadal is the Usain Bolt-frontrunner sprinting towards the year’s Grand Slam finish in New York City.

He beat R. Federer. He won his 11th straight over T. Berdych. He towered over the 6-foot-10 J. Isner in last Sunday’s final in Ohio. He’s unbeaten this year on hard-courts — his least-favorite surface.

This 2013, with N. Djokovic prevailing in Australia, Rafa at the French Open, and A. Murray at Wimbledon, will we witness a fourth different major winner in America?

Possibly, the Swiss maestro, Roger? Unlikely. But the fan-favorite has won the US Open five straight times. The problem is, that was from 2004 to 2008. It’s now 2013 and Roger is a lowly-ranked world no. 5. Andy Murray? He seems to be overextending his honeymoon after Wimbledon. Like most experts, I’ll go with the butt-scratching, time-overextending, bandana-wearing matador from Mallorca winning his 13th major this ‘13.

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DAVIS CUP. This Sept. 13 to 15, the Kiwis from New Zealand will land in Mactan and battle our fellow Pinoys. Plenty of reasons why you should watch.

One: The matches start at 3 p.m. and extend until the night. This means that, while immersed in the midst of Plantation Bay Resort and Spa’s beauty, you’ll be relaxed. It won’t be hot. The setting will be perfect.

Two: This Philippines-New Zealand battle is the final round of Group 2 competition. It’s crucial. Whoever wins will be elevated to the higher bracket that includes Japan, India and Australia. (Next to that category is the World Group — which includes the world’s Top 16.)

Three: It’s for free. While tickets will be distributed for early arrival/guaranteed seating, everybody else who wants to watch can watch. The goal is to jampack the open-air stadium. Thanks to the Lapu-Lapu City government and Cebuana Lhuillier (Jean Henri Lhuillier), who sponsor this event, we get to watch without paying P500/head.

Four: Like the Gilas Pilipinas, we get to cheer for our countrymen. Randy Villanueva, our Davis Cup administrator and the main person responsible for Cebu’s hosting the Davis Cup, confirms the attendance of Treat Huey and Ruben Gonzales.

“Treat is coming from the US Open,” said Randy. “He wasn’t able to defend his doubles ATP 500 title last week in Washington but he is doing well and hopefully he does good in the US Open … Ruben is also doing great as he came from Europe and joined a lot of doubles tap challenger; he is now top 200 in doubles, a career high. He is back in the States now and training with his personal coach for singles play for the coming Davis Cup.”

Five: New Zealand will field their star netter. Earlier this year, we defeated Syria, 3-2, and Thailand, 4-1.

Against New Zealand, I heard the news that their No. 1 player won’t be coming to Cebu. It turned out to be false. “If you’re talking about Daniel King Turner, who actually quit playing pro tennis recently,” said Randy Villanueva, “then it’s not true as he is coming as early as Sept 4 in Plantation Bay to train; the rest of his teammates arrive on Sept 8 or 9.” Now 29 years old, the 6’3” Turner was ranked just outside the world’s top 200 players in 2010. He recently announced his “retirement” from the pro circuit but has committed to Davis Cup play for NZ.

Six: Witness the honoring. “We are giving a Davis Cup committment award chosen by the ITF in coordination with Philta,” Randy said. “Davis Cup trophies will be given to three players and they are Johnny Jose, Reymundo Deyro and Johnny Arcilla. We will award them before the start of the Saturday doubles at 6 p.m. Also, Rod Rafael is coming to the Davis Cup tie and will try to help and inspire the team; really looking forward to this also.”

It’s a tennis date: Sept. 13, 14 and 15. Venue: Plantation Bay Resort and Spa.

In Davis Cup, an old foe in New Zealand

Mark your calendar and block off these dates: Sept. 13 to 15. During these three days, like we did during the Half-Ironman race two Sundays ago, we’ll once again witness a sports contest that’s international.

In fact, if the Ironman is only 35 years young (it began in 1978 in Hawaii), next month’s competition is 113 years old. Yes, the Davis Cup — the largest team sport competition in the world — started in 1900. Since that moment, World Wars I and II have erupted and wars between nations have been fought on the tennis court.

This Sept. 13 to 15, our Team Philippines will hope to do a Gilas Pilipinas: We hope to qualify. Right now, we’re in Group 2 of the Asia-Oceania bracket. If we defeat our opponents — New Zealand — next month, we’ll qualify to join countries like Australia and India and enter Group 1.

New Zealand. This isn’t a new nemesis; we’ve faced them five times before. The first meeting was a long 50 years ago. Yes, half a century ago — in 1963 — we met. We’ll face again in 2013. Historic, right? We won that inaugural tie and have since played four more times (1989, 2007, 2009, and 2011).

Thus far, our head-to-head is 3-2, advantage Philippines. The bad news is that the last time we met, we lost 5-0. The good news is that prior to that encounter (at the PCA shell courts in Manila), we won.

Who’ll win next month? Us, I hope. You see, we’ll be riding off a great wave of momentum that’s buoyed our players this year. Last February, we faced Syria and won. Last April, we faced Thailand and won. Will it be third-time-lucky in Sept?

Yes. Playing at the picturesque Plantation Bay Resort and Spa for a fifth time, our win-loss record on the solitary clay-court is 2-all (we lost the first two to Japan and Chinese-Taipei). We hope to break the tie for a positive score, in our favor.

If you haven’t watched a Davis Cup weekend here in Mactan in the past four outings, then I’ll use a phrase that Michel Lhuillier jokingly said in our recent conversation when I had not visited his newest French restaurant: Shame on you.

You must watch! This is a continuation of the Pinoy Pride glory that was started last weekend by June Mar Fajardo and his Gilas teammates.

PLAYERS. “We are about to name the pool of candidates and will announce the actual team on Sept. 3,” said Randy Villanueva, the Phil. Tennis Association Vice President and Davis Cup administrator.

The two names that Randy guarantees will be playing are Treat Huey and Ruben Gonzales. “They’re actively competing abroad and have world rankings,” Randy said, of the two Filipino-Americans.

The other netters who are strongly considered include Johnny Arcilla, Francis Casey Alcantara, PJ Tierro, Jeson Patrombon, Elbert Anasta and Marc Reyes.

“The favorites, of course, are Arcilla and Alcantara as they were in the last team that beat Thailand,” said Randy. “But the coaching staff would like to also see the results and their condition in the Olivarez Open that will end in August. PJ Tierro is playing well; he won two of the last three tournaments, although they were on hard courts. Anything is possible with the team specially that we are playing home and the players are just here.”

Like in basketball, our former tennis stars used to be Asian champions. According to the official website (, these words appeared to describe our nation: “Philippines was Eastern Zone champion in 1957, 1958, 1960 and 1964, but lost in the Inter Zonal semifinals on all four occasions. Philippines reached the World Group play-offs in 1991, although has never appeared in the competition’s top tier.”

Again, like in PHL basketball, today we’re on the rise with tennis, as evidenced by our twin DC wins this year. Beating New Zealand will be a major step that will bring us closer to meeting the Nadals and Dimitrovs.

Davis Cup tie and the Thais

Ruben Gonzales raised his arms to the sky. He looked up, closed his eyes for a moment, smiled and made the sign of the cross. Thank you, Lord!

Last Sunday afternoon was the most important tennis match in the life of the 27-year-old America-based Filipino. Two years ago, when Cecil Mamiit was the star of our Davis Cup team, Ruben was relegated as substitute. He was good but Cecil and Treat Huey were the superstars. Ruben had to muster his patience to sit and watch. Not two days ago.

Danai Udomchoke, his opponent, was highly-ranked. He had reached world 77, was currently ranked 207 (vs. the 784 singles ranking of Ruben), and Danai had won the Asian Games in 2006.

On paper, Ruben was supposed to lose. On paper. Because on court, he was superb. When the score was 5-4 in the first set, Ruben ran around his backhand and smashed a down-the-line winner. On set point, he Xerox-copied the move: a forehand winner to win the first set, 6-4.

Danai “The Thai” was stunned. Am I not the more experienced netter? the 31-year-old Danai thought to himself.

In Set 2, Ruben did not relax. He exchanged one-handed topspin backhands. He hammered 120-mph service aces. He carressed the yellow ball to score drop shots. Ruben won the second set, 6-3.

This was when the capacity-crowd at Plantation Bay Resort and Spa started to scream louder. The two groups of students from Lapu-Lapu City — in full Philippine-color uniforms — danced and sang cheers. Drum beats revererated in the usually-quiet resort.

Tanakorn Srichaphan, the Thai captain, frowned. How can this be? Down 1-2, Danai was expected to level the score, 2-all. No, no, said Ruben. His resolve was as strong as his spinning forehand. Known as a doubles specialist, this was his moment to shout to all Pinoys, “Hey, I’m a star, too!.”

In Set 3, Danai — whose 5-foot-8 height and lean physique was much smaller than Ruben’s 6’1” muscular frame — was out-hit. Like a weakened boxer whose face is swollen and whose ribcage is half-broken, he was the same on-court.

On the opposite side of the net, Ruben’s confidence was sky-rocketing. He was slicing one-inch-above-the-net shots. With Jean Henri Lhuillier, the CEO of Cebuana Lhuillier, seated meters from the sideline, he wanted to prove to the man that he’s The Man.

He did, winning, 6-3. The crowd stood. We clapped a standing salute. Even our Southeast Asian neighbor-opponents applauded. Masterful. Complete. It was a knock-out of a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 win. Game over, Philippines. Thanks to our tennis-Pacman: Ruben Gonzales.

ALCANTARA. Despite a 3-1 win, the fifth match was still played.Francis Casey “Niño” Alcantara was asked to play. Hailing from Cagayan de Oro, I used to watch Niño when he was still 8 years old.

Last Sunday night, the Pepperdine University scholar was too good. Final score: 6-4, 4-6, 6-0.

At game’s end, all four players entered the court. They hurled Cebuana Lhuillier shirts to the crowd. Isn’t victory all-so-satisfying?    After losing to Japan and Taiwan in 2011, we defeated Syria and Thailand this 2013. It’s not true, after all, that.. “Dimalas ang Davis Cup sa Cebu.”

Now sporting a 2-2 scorecard, will we see a fifth DC event against New Zealand in Marigondon? Yes! That’s our hope. Our Pinoy netters love Cebu. Days before the weekend, Ruben gorged on lechon! They love the beach setting of one of Asia’s best resorts. They love the Cebuano crowd. Let’s hope for a Cebu return.

PARTY. After the last match (at nearly 9 PM), I joined the two teams and the officials for the post-event party. Instead of pressure-packed tennis, it was the opposite: singing, drinking, eating, talking. Ruben and Treat did a duet song number, “I Want To Be A Billionaire.” Danai sang “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You.”

That’s the beauty of sport. You fight. You pump fists. You stare. You beat. You raise your arms. You make the sign of the cross. Then, after the shaking of hands, you render songs in a duet. That’s doubles!

Thailand vs. Philippines: Who’ll win?

My wife Jasmin and I relish Thai food. Tom Yum? Yum, yum. That’s our favorite spicy soup. Pad Thai, the stir-fried noodle dish? Delicious. Here in Cebu, from Ayala to SM to BTC, we can easily savor Thai cuisine.

Thai massage? Even more prevalent. In almost every major there’s a Nuat Thai or Thewi Thai or Wat Pho.

If we speak of Bangkok, the capital of the Kingdom of Thailand, it’s nearby. Our very own Cebu Pacific now offers thrice-weekly direct flights from Cebu to Bangkok. If we talk of business, in a head-to-head, PH is handily beaten by TH. In terms of GDP, they totaled $643 billion compared to our $417 billion. That’s a big disparity. To think that our 90 million population dwarfs their 67 million.

Why this talk of Thailand? Because this weekend, either the Filipinos will feast on Thai food or our neighboring Thais will gobble up Pinoy food.

It’s tennis. It’s this tomorrow until Sunday. It’s at Plantation Bay Resort and Spa. It’s the Group 2 meeting between these two Southeast Asian nations. It’s Davis Cup.

Last night, together with the Phil. Tennis Association (Philta) and the Thai tennis squads, I attended the traditional Welcome Dinner hosted by owner Manny Gonzalez and GM Efren Belarmino of Plantation Bay. The players were introduced. They got to meet face to face. They danced the tinikling.

This morning, it will be the Draw. This is the occasion when who-will-play-who will be determined. Will Treat Huey play singles tomorrow? If yes, will the world no. 27 (in doubles) meet the Thai top seed, Danai Udomchoke?

Ruben Gonzales, the star of our last Davis Cup tie versus Syria — is he playing tomorrow? Yes, most likely. How about Nino Alcantara? You’ve heard of Nino: he’s Bisaya, from Cagayan de Oro, and now studies in the U.S. under a college scholarship. He’s famous for being a junior Australian Open doubles champion. He’s in Cebu. He’s with the team.

Johnny Arcilla? The indefatigable Bisaya, Johnny is a 7-time PCA Open champ. He played against Syria and won an important match. He completes the four-man squad.

A funny thing happened two nights ago. During the Fellowship Dinner of the 14th Truflex National Age Group event, all four Davis Cuppers — plus their coaches Roland Kraut and Chris Cuarto — attended. They wore all-blue (Yonex) shirts and gorged on lechon as they joined the nearly 200 junior players and parents at Bayswater in Marigondon.

Huey, Gonzales, Arcilla and Alcantara were introduced in the front by Randy Villanueva, Philta’s top official and Davis Cup administrator. Upon the prodding of Randy and forced by the clapping of the crowd, the six danced the Harlem Shuffle! I’m sure that dance was shot in video and uploaded in Facebook. Look for it!

With the Phil-Thai Davis Cup schedule, it’s this: Tomorrow (Friday), it’s the first two singles matches. The first match begins at 3:30 P.M. The second singles match follows right after. (Perfect afternoon/evening setting.) For Saturday — the birthday of the Thai-looking Pinoy, Jourdan Andrew Polotan — it will be just one match: the doubles, to start at 6 P.M. On Sunday, it’s the reverse two singles matches; the first to begin at 3:30 P.M. See you in Plantation Bay!

SUMMER TENNIS CAMP. If you’re looking to join a sports clinic this summer, try tennis. Not yet known to many, we’ve got a world-class tennis coach who now resides in Cebu.

Tommy Frederiksen, who hails from Sweden and who moved here last January, will conduct a month-long tennis camp at the Casino Espanol. It’s open to the public.

Sessions are every Tuesday and Thursday from 8 to 10 A.M. at Casino Espanol’s two clay courts along Ranudo St. The fee for the April 9 to May 7 camp is P2,000. Very reasonable. Players who don’t have rackets can even borrow. The camp is open to children from 6 to 18 years old and to both beginners and intermediate-level players.

Register now! Call Ritchel at 2531260 or Ana/Lex at 4161122 or text Coach Tommy at 0917-3010338.

Want to win? Lose first.

I love failure. No, I don’t want it. Who does? But, when it does happen — and, human beings that we are, failure is bound to happen all the time — then I relish it.

Failure is good. Without it, we don’t learn. We don’t correct. We don’t see what we need to improve; we don’t become better. That’s what failure does. It teaches us. It helps us see the other side; helps us observe what we did right in the past; it humbles us.

I love failure. There’s a saying that goes: “If you don’t fail, then maybe you haven’t tried hard enough.” True. Too often, we’re afraid. We don’t take risks. We look at what can go wrong instead of what can be.

My favorite quotation? “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life…..    and that is why I succeed.”

This man made error after mistake after missed shot. And that’s why he’s Michael Jordan.

I love failure. This is why I love sports so much. It teaches us about life. It teaches us how to live life. Because in sports — as I shared two mornings ago at Bright Academy when I spoke during the Sports Fest Opening — in any game we play, there are always two possible outcomes: either you win or you lose.

There will always be a loser in sports. But when you lose, it doesn’t mean you’re a loser. It means you lost one game. You can use that failure as an impetus to practice harder, jump higher, run faster. You can win. In the next game. Yes you can. Because of failure.

I love failure. I like it so much that, two years ago in my speech before a full house crowd in Ayala Center Cebu — for the 29th SAC-SMB Cebu Sports Awards, attended by Cebu’s top athletes and sports personalities; all of them champions — guess what topic I discussed?

Failure. You know why? Because as successful as those honorees were, they’ll fail. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe in next month’s tournament. Maybe to a more inspired opponent who they handily beat before.

Failure is as human to you and me as the air, the darkness at night, the ball that is round. But failure is temporary. It’s what you do after you fail that’s essential. Do you rebound after? Do you smile, swallow the defeat, and vow to become a new You and better You? That’s when failure is good.

Remember Nadal? Out for seven months with a knee injury, is he now a failed athlete, a footnote to the greatness of Novak and Murray? Ha-ha. Never. In Rafa’s mind molded of Spanish steel, he’ll use that “failure” (he failed to compete in so many events, including failing to defend his Olympic gold medal) as extra motivational sauce to spice up his forehand. Watch out, Rog.

I love failure. Winners do. Of course, deep inside, they hate it. Champions despise it. But, when it does happen, the hurt is being transformed into a positive force.

Remember LeBron? And how the world conspired to hate him when he left Cleveland and transferred to Florida? He swallowed that humble Miami pie and, guess what, he’s now got an NBA ring and an Olympic gold to go with his MVP trophies.

I love failure. You should, too. Use it. Turn around your failed status. It’s all in your brain. Success is not due to your present circumstances — it’s up to your mind. If you want it; if you program your brain and change that dark state into a spirit that says I-can-do-it, then here’s the secret: You can do it.

Look at the Davis Cup team. Twice losers in our first two outings in Plantation Bay Resort and Spa, many said “dimalas ang Cebu.” We can’t win here. We’re not strong. Well, we beat Syria and will face Thailand this April 5 to 7. I was there the whole of last weekend and you can’t describe the extra joy and extra sweetness of victory — finally winning after losing.

That’s what failure does. It makes the victory tastier; it makes the come-from-behind win more savory; it means more. Relish failure. And be thankful to God when you rise and finally triumph. Because you will.

Davis Cup videos






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!