THAILAND has sent the same team that scored a sweep in the last showdown with the Philippines, which is expecting a big boost in the Davis Cup with the return of the most dominant player at the Philippine Columbian Association courts.
Johnny Arcilla, winner of the PCA Open eight times, joins Jeson Patrombon and the 18-year-old AJ Lim, who played for the Philippines against the Thais last year, in the Asia Oceania Group II tie in Manila this week.
Francis Casey Alcantara and 17-year-old John Bryan Otico, who played in a 4-1 win over Indonesia in February, have been retained.
Arcilla says it’s all about proper preparation at the slow shell-clay courts.
“Training is very important. Dun mo makukuha yung strategy mo. Ang tip ko lang, mag-focus lang kami at magtulungan,” said Arcilla.
“Kailangan talaga namin ng support,” he added.
Despite the expected crowd support and the surface where the Filipinos are very comfortable, non-playing captain Chris Cuarto sees a close fight.
“They (Thais) are professionals, shell-clay courts may not be their kind of surface but they travelled a lot and they played in big time tournaments. So the surface is not a guarantee for us to win,” added Cuarto.
“This is the best composition that we can have,” stressed Cuarto. “Malaki ang tiwala ako sa kanila, talent-wise o kahit ano pa. On paper, they (the Thais) are better. But anything can happen when you step on the court.”
The Thais lead the Filipinos in the head-to-head, 4-3, including a 5-0 whitewash last year.
Doubles specialists Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwana, their highest-ranked singles player in Wishaya Trongcharoenchaikul and Jirat Navasirisomboon are back, although they don’t expect a sweep this time.
“To be honest, we are expecting to win,” said Sonchat Ratiwatana during the press launching of the event at the PCA.
“But anything can happen. We played them on hardcourt in the (2017) SEA Games and it wasn't easy. They clay court is not our forte. So I would say there’s a 50-50 chance,” he added.
Sochat’s twin, Sanchai, agreed, saying: “Since we are not used to playing on this kind of surface, we expect a good tie. And that will be good for tennis fans here.”
The draw for the matches is set for Friday, with the opening singles slated Saturday.