HE LEFT Cebu when he was a diminutive 10-year-old playing in local age group tennis tournaments. Now at 17, Tuburan’s Vince Marc Tabotabo is taller, a lot older and playing in a pre-qualifying tournament for a Grand Slam in the US.
Tabotabo made it to the second round of the Northern California Sectional Qualifying Tournament for the US Open in California.
A pre-qualifying tournament gives winners a chance to advance to the US Open qualifying tournament, which will then give winners a chance to earn a spot in the US Open main draw.
In the first round, Tabotabo routed Timothy Tan, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, but retired in the second round against another Asian netter after suffering from cramps.
“It took us three hours and 30 minutes to end the first set of my first match. In the second round I was already feeling the cramps till I couldn’t tolerate it any longer and decided to retire,” said Tabotabo.
He may have lost but Tabotabo considered it a very unforgettable experience being his first attempt in the pre-qualifying event for the US Open.
He also felt that the experience is already a huge accomplishment considering the things he had to go through, especially during the early years in the US, before getting to this point.
Tabotabo and his father, Titus, made a leap of faith and went to the US seven years ago so that Tabotabo could get better training and exposure in tennis.
With just the help of then Gov. Gwen Garcia and Vice Gov. Greg Sanchez, the duo is able to pay for their airfare to compete in the US.
Tabotabo, who was the smallest player in the tournament they joined, drew the attention of the Filipino community there.
The Filipinos then pooled their resources to help the Tabotabos start their lives in the US.
That was seven years ago, when the 10-year-old player from Tuburan had no inkling he would be this close to playing in a huge event like the US Open.
Now, after his experience, Tabotabo said he believes the experience will open more doors for him to bigger tournaments abroad.
“I feel great that I was able to compete against other strong players here in the US,” said Tabotabo.
“Since I came here, seven years ago, I could see a lot of improvement with my playing skills. Here, nutrition is given great deal among athletes, so we always have a complete and proper diet. The weather is an advantage because of the cool weather.
It’s good to train in,” said Tabotabo.
“One of my greatest dreams is to become one of the top 100 pro players in the world,” said Tabotabo, who is planning to start playing as a pro at the age of 20.
Next year, Tabotabo will make another attempt with the hope to win all his seven matches, to then get a chance to qualify in the main qualifying event and hopefully, the main draw.