BRIAN Brian Joseph Otico and veteran Jeson Patrombon hope to provide the early spark as the Philippines collides with powerhouse Thailand on Saturday in the opener of their 2018 Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group II tie at the Philippine Columbian Association shell-clay courts in Paco, Manila.
Picked to play in the opening singles matches, Patrombon and Otico vowed to work hard to push the Philippines ahead as they seek redemption following a crushing 5-0 defeat to the Thais in the same stage last year in Bangkok.
The winner of the tie will face the victor between Hong Kong-China and Lebanon in September with the champion earning a Group I promotion.
“We lost badly the last time, so we hope can get back at them,” said Otico, who was drawn to play against Thailand’s No. 1 Wishaya Trongcharienchaikul after being nominated the as the country’s No. 2 player.
Trongcharienchaikul, ranked 433rd in the world, is also determined to give Thailand a good start as a birthday present for himself as he turns 23 on Sunday.
Otico, the 17-year-old reigning PCA champion believes he has trained hard and long enough to pull off a surprise win. On top of that, he’s hoping the PCA crowd will again support him just like when he won last year.
“I’m OK, it’s a good challenge and I’ll do everything I can to give the country a good start,” said Otico, who like Patrombon hopes to use their familiarity of the surface to full advantage.
No. 1 Patrombon takes on Thai No. 2 Jirat Navasirisomboon in the first singles match at 10 a.m.
Philta president Antonio Cablitas expressed guarded optimism, saying: “We will be playing against a highly-touted team but I’m still confident that our homegrown players whose talents were tested in their impressive win over the Indonesians will rise to the challenge.”
“Barring injuries, I expert exciting matches,” added the Presidential adviser on Investments.
The doubles match that will pit veterans Johnny Arcilla and Francis Casey Alcantara against the durable twins -- Sonchat and Sanchai Ratiwana – will be played on Sunday morning while the reverse singles are set in the afternoon.
“May kumpiyansa naman kami sa matchup na ito. Hopefully yung familiarity din sa court surface at sa environment ang maging advantage namin,” said Alcantara.
Despite the impressive credentials of the Thais, Philippine non-playing captain Chris Cuarto refused to be intimidated, saying they like their chances as well.
“If we have to play much better than when we beat the Indonesians last February then we have to be ready,” said Cuarto, who appealed to all tennis stakeholders to come and support his players.
Despite being beaten black and blue last year, the Filipinos still lead the Thais in their head-to-head, 4-3.