PH tennis needs to shape up The Philippine sports writing community has lost a pillar with the passing of Jo




The Manila Times


THE Philippines has entered another golden era in sports. Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz scored the country’s first Olympic gold medal in 2020. Golfer Yuka Saso became the first Filipino to win the US Women’s Open in 2021. Gymnast Carlos Yulo also bagged multiple medals in the world stage in 2021. And Junna Tsukii became the first Filipino to win a karate gold at the World Games in 2022. The Philippine women’s national football team earned a spot to play in the 2023 World Cup. The Blu Boys, too, will advance to the Softball World Cup in New Zealand later this year. Let’s include in the list pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena, who recently had a successful outdoor season, winning six golds out of eight tournaments in Europe. And now we have Alex Eala, the tennis prodigy who ruled the girls singles event at the US Open in New York, also a first for the Philippines in any Grand Slam tournament. Eala, only 17, has improved a lot since her bronze medal performance in women’s singles and mixed doubles at the Southeast Asian Games last May. Philippine tennis actually has a decent showing in the last Sea Games as the pair of Treat Huey and Ruben Gonzales defeated fellow Filipinos Jeson Patrombon and Francis Alcantara in the men’s doubles gold medal match. Speaking of tennis, the prestigious Davis Cup is set to enter its knockout phase in November. The eight remaining teams are USA, Croatia, Spain, Italy, Australia, Germany, Canada and The Netherlands. The Philippines is currently ranked 127th in the Davis Cup. Our Southeast Asian neighbors, however, are ranked much higher. Malaysia is 88th. Thailand is 72nd. Vietnam is 68th. And Indonesia is 62nd. Why is the Philippines ranked so low despite the fact that we almost made it in the World Group 2 playoffs at the Davis Cup in 2020? We should be ranked within the vicinity of our SEA Games rivals. Well, that’s because the International Tennis Federation (ITF) slapped a twoyear suspension on the Philippine Tennis Association (Philta) in November 2020 for leadership and membership issues. By virtue of the ITF suspension, the Philippines is banned from playing in the Davis Cup. Philta also cannot join any general assembly meeting of the ITF, apply for any form of ITF funding or grant program, apply for any ITF development technical support or ITF development programs, apply for any national tournament to form part of the ITF Circuits including the ITF World Tennis Tour (men’s, women’s and juniors), ITF Wheelchair World Tour, ITF Beach Tennis Circuit, ITF Seniors Circuit and ITF Official Team competitions. Philta, however, said amendments have been made in its Constitution to increase and widen the association’s membership and representation. The national federation also held a virtual election last January under the watchful eyes of the Philippine Olympic Committee. But are these moves enough for ITF to lift the ban? I certainly hope so. The biggest victims of the ITF sanction are the Filipino tennis players who should be able to play in ITF tournaments. Just look at Diaz, Obiena, Yulo, Saso and Tsukii who all campaigned abroad and played against the best athletes in their respective fields. Same thing applies for tennis players who need to compete at a high level. Eala trained at the Rafa Nadal Academy and is looking to play in the women’s division at the Women’s Tennis Tour. But what about the other Filipino tennis players? Players need international exposure such as the ITF sanctioned tournaments. It’s a no brainer. Philta needs to shape up and mend the pain. The country needs to regain its turf in the Davis Cup. The last thing we need is to give the ITF a reason to extend its ban on the Philippines. Like I said, the Philippines has entered a golden era in sports and it would be a shame if tennis is relegated to the sidelines. Farewell, Sir Joe