Philta eyes 2 players for Tokyo Olympics

Philippine tennis maybe headed for a brighter future after leaders of the sport gathered for a summit last week to lay down a program whose ultimate objective is to have at least two players qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

The summit also affirmed the leadership of Randy Villanueva as head of the organization. The summit was attended by leading stakeholders as well as representatives from top sponsors such as Jean Henri Lhuiller of Cebu Lhuillier and Bobby Castro of Palawan Pawnshop which bankroll nearly 80 percent of all tennis activities and competitions in the country.

PSC Commissioner Charles Maxey also attended the event, representing the chairman William “Butch” Ramirez.

Villanueva is taking over the association after its president, Edwin Olivares, resigned after being elected congressman of Parañaque. Villanueva, Philta executive vice president, will be serving Olivares’ unexpired term until 2018.

Jeson Patrombon will be one of several players to be groomed for intensive training so he can be ready to qualify for a slot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics tennis competition.

The sport, once vibrant and very popular, has not had any stellar achievement the past few years. This has been illustrated by the country’s inability to improve its Davis Cup ranking and in its failure to have a player of significant talent qualify in the main draw of any of the four major tennis championships.

Villanueva hopes that by holding the summit, he would be able to draw a program to change the bleak tennis scenery with help of stakeholders and sponsors.

Villanueva is hoping that with the support from the tennis community, the target of having players in the Tokyo Olympics four years from now will be achieved.

“To be considered a world class tennis association,” he said, “we should have at least two Olympians.”

The Philippines missed out narrowly to have an Olympian in the Rio Games when doubles specialist Treat Huey, a Filipino-American based in the US, fell short in his bid.

But other than Huey, who has made significant progress in various doubles events but with foreign not Filipino partners, the country lacks a base from where to get local back up for the Fil-Am.

Besides Huey, who is the country’s top Davis Cup and Southeast Asian Games player, only Ruben Gonzales, Francis Casey Alcantara, Jeson Patrombon and Alberto Lim Jr., are actively campaigning in various international tournaments.

The tennis summit also aims to increase the number of tennis players around the country from the current level of less than a thousand to 100,000 over four years or more.

Villanueva said this can be accomplished by encouraging city and provincial tennis clubs to hold tournaments within their communities and then support young players who show promise.

He envisioned a plan that would engage players from club levels to inter-city or inter-provincial competitions to regional meets and the best ones playing in a national tournament.

“We shall then grade them according to their abilities, similar to golf handicapping, so we can identify the best among the crop,” Villanueva said.


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