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Last slot left for Davis Cup

Philippine Tennis Association vice president Randy Villanueva said yesterday one slot is left on the four-man squad representing the country in the Davis Cup tie against Hong Kong at Victoria Park on March 6-8.

Ticketed to play are two-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Cecil Mamiit, former University of Virginia star Treat Huey and Australian Open junior doubles champion Niño Alcantara. The last slot is reserved for the winner of the Metro Open which ends at the Rizal Memorial courts tomorrow. The consensus is PCA Open champion Johnny Arcilla will clinch the final berth. Alcantara, 17, and Huey, 23, are making their Davis Cup debuts for the Philippines. The other day, Alcantara flew in from Cagayan de Oro to team with Ralph Barte in the Metro Open doubles competitions. The pair won two matches in a row and was set to play the top-seeded tandem of Arcilla and P. J. Tierro in the semifinals yesterday afternoon.

Tennis sponsor Rommie Chan said Alcantara has finished taking his final exams at Xavier but will skip the high school graduation ceremonies to pursue his dream of playing in the Asian circuit.

After the Davis Cup, Alcantara will compete in four under-18 International Tennis Federation (ITF) Level I tournaments with legs in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines (on March 24-30) and Japan.

Asian Tennis Federation director for junior events Ajay Pathak said the experience will go a long way in preparing Alcantara for the road to the top.

The Manila leg will bring in 64 players for the main draw, including 32 qualifiers. Pathak said he expects players from about 18 countries to participate. He pointed out that in the previous formats, countries were allocated slots for two males and two females but now, the entries are based on world rankings to assure a highly competitive field.

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From the ITF tour, Alcantara will move to Europe where he is booked to play in Italy, France and England.

Villanueva said he was surprised by PSC chairman Harry Angping’s recent declaration clamping down on the recruitment of Fil-foreigners to wear the country’s colors in international sports events.

“We really don’t know the implications of the chairman’s declaration,” said Villanueva. “We rely on the PSC to pay for traveling expenses. Personally, I think it’s discriminatory because Fil-foreigners are Filipinos, too. That’s why the law allows for dual citizenship with Fil-foreigners enjoying the rights and privileges of Filipinos. We’re hoping this pronouncement won’t demoralize Cecil and Treat who are both Fil-Ams.”

Mamiit, 32, is a full-blooded Filipino born in Los Angeles while Huey’s mother Manina is Filipina and father Kirk, an American.

Villanueva said Mamiit and Huey will fly straight to Hong Kong from the US while the rest of the team leaves Manila on Sunday.

“Treat is rated higher in doubles than singles but it’s the coach’s call how he’ll play the guys,” said Villanueva. “It will depend on the training and practices before the Davis Cup begins. The coach will assess the situation and decide.”

The Philippines won eight straight ties to move from Group III in 2006 to Group I in the Asia-Oceania zone last year. But successive defeats to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Japan relegated the Philippines back to Group II.

Hong Kong will be represented by Martin Sayer, 21, Michael Lai, 22, Brian Hung, 23, and Hiu Tung Yu, 25. The winner of the Philippines-Hong Kong tie will advance to play the Pakistan-Oman survivor on July 10-12. Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia and New Zealand are the other countries in Group II.

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Former San Sebastian College-Recoletos of Cavite forward Mark Yee was supposed to sign a contract with Burger King in the PBA this conference but pulled back after Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno asked if he could play out the Liga Pilipinas season until March 31.

Yee, 27, applied for the PBA draft last year but was not picked. The 6-3, 170-pound native of Sagay City, Negros Occidental, has seen action for Welcoat, Cebuana Lhuillier, Bacchus and Pharex in the PBL and is known for his rugged play in the shaded lane.

A rookie whom the Titans are introducing in the Fiesta Conference is 6-4, 200-pound Erick Rodriguez. He was in the 2006 PBA draft pool but wasn’t chosen. Rodriguez, 27, played four years for Letran and was on the roster of two NCAA champion squads. The Orion, Bataan, forward polished his skills with Toyota in the PBL.

Burger King coach Yeng Guiao’s lineup lists skipper Wynne Arboleda, Arwind Santos, Cyrus Baguio, Gary David, Celino Cruz, Homer Se, J. R. Quinahan, Marvin Cruz, Egay Billones, Cholo Villanueva, Beau Belga, Chad Alonso, Rodriguez and import Shawn Daniels.

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