RP advances to Davis Cup Group 2

- Abac Cordero -
The Philippines can now look forward to better days in the Davis Cup.

Behind another shutout win, this time against Saudi Arabia, the Philippines yesterday earned a return ticket to Group 2 of the Davis Cup Asia Oceania Zone.

Relegated to Group 3 following a bad roll against South Korea and Lebanon last year, the Philippines made sure it would get out of the hole by fielding Fil-Americans Erik Taino and Cecil Mamiit.

Taino and Mamiit, both veterans of Grand Slam events in the international tennis circuit, lived up to their billing as they stayed unbeaten in all their singles matches at the Manila Polo Club.

The two Fil-Ams have vowed to continue playing for the country in future competitions like this year’s Asian Games and the Davis Cup. It’s certainly a great development for RP tennis.

Taino had some scary moments against Saudi’s Al-Saad Fahad, 1-6, 6-0, 6-3, while Mamiit had a nice walk in the park against Al- Rajeh Saleh, 6-0, 6-0.

Johnny Arcilla and PJ Tierro sealed the 3-0 rout with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Al-Mugail Bader and Al-Saad Fahad, drawing cheers from the beautiful gallery which included former Ms. Universe Gloria Diaz.

The Philippines scored similar 3-0 wins over Sri Lanka, Singapore and Vietnam before taking on Saudi yesterday. With the perfect record, the Philippines assured itself of a Group 2 stint next year.

Today’s closing matches for the host country will be against Iran, another team eyeing a ticket back to Group 2. Iranian fans are expected to come in full force to cheer loudly for their players.

"We’re back in Group 2. Now we have to get ready for next year," said Philippine Lawn Tennis Association president Manuel Misa. He said the draw for next year’s groupings is set this October.

Taino didn’t drop a set in his first three matches, but faced some anxious moments against Fahad.

"Yes I did. I know," said the 30-year-old lefty. "I got off to a slow start. I was a bit tight and nervous playing behind. But once I took control things went better."

After wrapping up the victory, Taino unzipped his tennis bag, pulled out probably half a dozen t-shirts and tossed them among the crowd. His relatives from Bulacan came to see the match.

Mamiit said they brought 200 of those shirts in from the US.

"My mom had them made. It’s really nice playing at home and a lot of people are cheering for you," said Mamiit.

John Henri Lhuillier is one of the few good men helping Philippine tennis. For his part, the young Cebuano businessman married to super athlete Bea Lucero has placed under his watch the promising PJ Tierro. For the past year or two, Lhuillier has shouldered most of Tierro’s expenses especially when the 20-year-old netter competes abroad. "He’s been very kind and I can only return the favor by working very hard on and off the court," said Tierro... The Davis Cup, a very prestigious tournament that was first played in 1900, is named after Dwight Davis, a young Harvard graduate who conceptualized a men’s team tennis competition between the US and UK. He donated a silver trophy, which cost him a thousand dollars at that time. The Philippines had a special place in the heart of Davis since he served as Governor General of the Philippines from 1927 to 1930. A total of 140 countries are now part of the Davis Cup where the Philippines first participated in 1921. There were only two members of that RP team, and they’re brothers – Francisco and Guillermo Aragon.

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