THE Philippine Davis Cup team will have to face cold weather and court unfamiliarity as the country battles Japan in their Asia-Oceania Group I tie on March 5 to 7 at the Namihaya Dome in Osaka.
The freezing weather condition in Osaka would likely affect their game according to RP Davis Cup coach Cris Cuarto, appearing in Tuesday's PSA Forum at the Shakey's United Nations Avenue branch.
“The weather would really be a factor since it is really cold there during this time of the year,” said Cuarto.The Japan Meteorogical Agency reveals that minimum and maximum temperatures during March drop from 13 to 5 degrees Celsius.
Members of the national team include Cecil Mamiit, Treat Huey Johnny Arcilla and Francis Casey Alcantara.
Cuarto however believes that Mamiit, Huey, and Alcantara can adjust easily to Osaka’s weather condition since they’ve been traveling regularly abroad.
Huey and Mamiit are currently outside of the country for trainings. The coach said Mamiit is set to return to the Philippines on February 23.
Next challenge for the country is the carpet court or a removable court covering made of rubber.
“Our main concern is the playing court which is a carpet surface, making it a fast court. But Mamiit and Huey are exposed to many international tournaments and have played in similar venues," Cuarto said.
“Besides, we plan to go to Japan a week before the tournament to get used to the playing condition and the cold weather,” added Cuarto.
But Cuarto said the Japanese are more skilled playing on the hardcourt rather than the carpet surface.
Overall, the RP team has won two of the five ties played on a carpet surface, the most recent one was against New Zealand in 2007 where it zoomed to a 5-0 win.
The Japanese hold a 16-9 advantage over the Filipinos in their head-to-head duel in the Davis Cup.
Japan has yet to announce its team but Cuarto believes it will be made up of Go, Takao Suzuki and Satoshi Iwabuchi, who all saw action in 2008.
Kei Nishikori, who was ranked 56th in the world last year and has competed in the US Open, Wimbledon and Australian Open, might also join the team.
“But he suffered injuries and is not that active," Cuarto said.
In 2008, Japan upended the Philippines, 5-0, in one of three Group 1 ties that the Filipinos lost (the others were to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan) in suffering the demotion to Group 2.
Arcilla, 29, Alcantara, 17, were on the Davis Cup squad in 2008.
The Filipinos returned to Group 1 after a one-year relegation to Group 2. The Philippines was promoted back to Group 1 after repulsing Hong Kong, 4-1, Pakistan, 3-2, and New Zealand, 4-1, in Group 2 action.
Laos feat boosts David Cup campaign
Even if the Philippines faces a tall order in Japan, Cuarto said the country's impressive showing in the recent Southeast Asian (SEA) Games is a strong indication that the country’s tennis team will give the Japanese a run on their money.
“We are optimistic about this tournament. Hopefully we can try to duplicate our feat in Laos,” he said.
In Laos, the Philippine men’s squad of Mamiit, Huey, P. J. Tierro and Arcilla captured the gold medal in the team event on a 2-1 win over Thailand in the finals.
Mamiit and Huey combined to beat twins Sonchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, in the doubles match for the clincher.
Huey earlier repulsed world No. 498 Kittipong Wachipamanowong, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6, and Mamiit lost to Asian Games champion Danai Udomchoke, 4-6, 2-6, in singles play.
In sum, the Philippines collected 10 SEA Games medals, one more than Thailand.
Above else, Cuarto said prayers and support from the Filipinos would do a lot to ease their campaign.
"We are banking on the support of the Filipinos here and in Japan. We really need it to win this game for the country," he said.
The winner of the Philippines-Japan tie will face the Australia-Chinese-Taipei survivor on May 7-9.
If the country survives Group 1, then it will advance to the World Group for the first time since 1991. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)