MONICO PUENTEVELLA 2 - PH tennis at long last

Felicisimo Ampon, Raymundo Deyro, Johnny Jose, Dungo Brothers, Dominguez, Rafols, and Felix Barrientos were among the last of the Mohicans.

Ever since I was a young boy in short pants until I got married, and became a commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commission, I had the fortune to watch all these guys bring pride and glory to our Filipino flag.

Davies Cup Games were a must for me, as my late father Jesus Puentevella, who was a national tennis Juniors champion in his younger days, taught me the beauty of the game at the age of nine. Until Cecile Mamiit, who was actually a Fil-Am came around, nothing much happened till now while we agonize watching the Taiwanese, Japanese, and Koreans prominently playing and bringing honor to their respective countries in the Wimbledon, Australian Open, French Open, and the US Open.

And all this time, every tennis-loving Pinoy has been asking what happened to us? But now, a star is born. Fourteen year old Alexandra Eala is the granddaughter of Frank Eala, a friend of mine in the sugar industry in Negros some years back, is showing signs now of finally making a breakthrough in the big league.

Last week, I finally found time to watch all her games in the Juniors category of the recent Aussie Open and I finally saw a Filipina making waves at last in the international arena. Salute to her father and mother, who was also a former national swimmer, for supporting this jewel stepping up to this long elusive challenge. It is about time. To God Be the Glory.

I’ve been blessed to personally watch all the Grand Slams, except for the Aussie Open, (due to the humid weather) and I have dreamt all these years to cheer for a Filipino one day and couldn’t understand why we couldn’t make it especially since everyone remembers fast and shortie Michael Chang, an American Chinese, who won the French Open at the young age of seventeen. And now, the young, unheralded and hungry Chinese youngsters from Mainland China, have also invaded the tennis world. Or even from smaller Taiwan.

What happened to us? We used to be at par or even better than Korea and Japan. And they started the renaissance with Nishikori. Luckily, Alex is gifted with the help, too, of Rafa Nadal’s tennis academy in Spain, where I understand Alex has been training. This is where the big difference lie. International exposure and training are essential, not only in tennis, but other sports as well, especially swimming.

Dreaming and aspiring for international success in sports are much different now. I can’t wait to see Alex grow and join the top ranks now. And by the way, the Aussie Open women’s crown was also won by a 21 year old girl (Sofia Kenin) from USA succeeding multi-awarded Serena Williams. Next stop is the French Open. Good luck Alex.

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