Philippine Star – Cuppers gear up vs Thais

(The Philippine Star) | Updated April 4, 2013 - 12:00am

LAPU LAPU CITY, Cebu, Philippines – The Philippines sets out for its Davis Cup campaign all pumped up with a full-bodied roster ready to battle old rival Thailand beginning tomorrow at the Plantation Bay Spa and Resort clay courts here.

Ruben Gonzales, Treat Huey, Francis Casey Alcantara and Johnny Arcilla make up the host squad, which holds a 3-2 lead in their head-to-head duel with the Thais although the Philippines has lost the last two, the last in 1999 in Thailand.

But Philippine Tennis Association vice president Randy Villanueva said they have high hopes in the Group 2 Asia/Oceania semifinals which marks the fourth time a Davis Cup tie is played in this prime tourist destination.

“We have a team that is complete, meaning every one among the four in the lineup can play in singles and doubles competently,’’ said Villanueva.

The Cebuana Lhuillier-backed team’s focus will be to stop Thai main man Danai Udomchoke although the visiting squad will be without the talented Kittiphon Wachiramanowong and vaunted doubles team of twins Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana.

Team captain Roland Kraut refused to reveal his lineup but is likely to go for Gonzales as No. 1 player and Arcilla as No. 2, the same way he did against Syria which the Philippines, also supported by Smart and Yonex Tour balls, defeated in the first two days to seal the tie before practically giving up the last reverse rubbers for a 3-2 count.

The drawing of lots to decide who will play in the first of the opening singles will be held today.

The veteran 31-year-old Udomchoke, a former Asian Games champion, will be the main concern for the Philippines with his current ranking of 207. The right-handed Udomchoke plays in the Grand Slam event singles, and even reached third round in 2007 Australian Open.

For the second player, the Thais will lean on Wishaya Trongcharoenchaikul, ranked 914th, who is largely untested in Davis Cup where crowd support and court surface play a big role.

“Thailand is still a tough team and we can’t take them for granted. But we are prepared. And the morale of the team is high,’’ said team manager Jean Henri Lhuillier.

Expected to play doubles for the Thais are Nuttanon Kadchapanan and Pruchya Isarow, while Tanakorn Srichapan is non-playing team captain.

The Philippines is looking at breaking into the elite Group 1 next year, but it will need to win this tie for a clash with either Pakistan or New Zealand in September for promotion.

The country blew its bid last year, winning the first two ties against Asia Oceania and Pakistan, only to lose to Indonesia (3-2). The last time the country played in Group 1 was in 2011 but lost all ties to get demoted.

Thailand, on the other hand, has been playing in Group 2 for the past four years, after a long glorious stint in Group 1 from 2000 to 2009 with likes of Narathorn Srichapan and Udomchoke in the fold.


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