AVID fans of tennis might know about the Filipino-American tennis player Treat Conrad Huey, the once “undefeated” Cecil Mamiit, and even the retired ATP Tour American tennis player Eric Taino.
And then, there's the Kagay-anon's pride Francis Casey “Niño” Alcantara, a 26-year-old top-level tennis player who has been playing the sport for 20 years.
Alcantara started when he was six years old, with his father as coach and his cousins as his playmates.
“It was my sport ever since, because our house is just in front of the tennis court. My dad taught me the basics of tennis and then my cousins play with me,” Alcantara said.
However, it was not until he met Romie Chan in his early teens that he got the chance to seriously train for tennis and travel around the world, play the junior grand slams, and even got a scholarship in United States.
“I used to play almost all kinds of sports but I was led to tennis when I got this sponsorship when I was 12 years old. He offered me sponsorship. He was saying, ‘Do you want to be number one in the world?’ and I was like; ‘Sure, why not?’“ Alcantara said.
According to Niño, his game in 2009 had a huge impact in his career as he was the first Filipino to win the Australian Open Juniors.
“In 2009, I won the Australian Open Juniors, I was only 16 years old then. It was the biggest leg in my career. I was the first Filipino to win it. It was something that I can treasure for the rest of my life,” Alcantara said.
“And I'm gonna keep working until I make it to the Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo, and that's my goal for now,” he added.
Niño has played in over 300 hundred games internationally and at present, he's on a break from training for the Asian games in Jakarta, Indonesia in August.
“I'm resting for this weekend lang, I'm home because my cousins are here from the states so I decided to come home to see them. I'll just be here for 3 days and then I'm bound for Jakarta on Friday and then head to Korea after, and then I’ll go back again to Indonesia for the Asian Games,” he said.
Niño also mentioned how supportive his family and relatives are in the career he chose to take.
“If I have tournaments here in the Philippines, they always make sure that they come and watch me play,” he said.
Niño, just like every top-level tennis players in the world, also got his fair share of criticisms but he said he doesn't allow it to affect him.
When asked what challenges he usually faces he replies “The traveling part is always hard because I travel alone. My coach doesn't travel with me much. It’s hard because some of the players travel with their coaches, they get to chill with them and relax before and after the games. It’s always better to travel with someone that I trust,” Alcantara said.
“Some players and coaches try to bully and intimidate me at the same time, I don't really care. I stay positive as possible,” he added.
Niño is a tennis player for the doubles category, although he did try playing in singles in 2015 to 2016 but according to him, singles is really not for him.
Despite playing the sport for 20 years, Niño still retains his love for tennis as, according to him, he likes the people he met on his tours.
“It’s the people around it. I like the people around it because they're friendly and all. They're so nice to me, and I'm nice to them as well. I just like the environment. I feel comfortable and I've been playing for like 20 years. I love the sport, I love playing and I get paid playing it. It’s like a job, you getting paid, like it’s your dream job and you're getting paid for it,” Alcantara said.
The top-level tennis player was even confident that he will be able to compete in equal grounds with the number one tennis player in the world.
“Even with the number one player in the world, I think I can have a good game against him. I have a chance, if and when given the chance to play against him,” he said.
“To those kids who want to be like me or be better than me, listen to your coaches and don't be a pain, don't lose your goal, do whatever it takes to make it on the job,” Alcantara advised.