RP Cuppers, Kiwis open ‘tie’ today

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE hometown edge versus higher-ranked players.

This is what it all boils down to when the Philippine takes on New Zealand in the finals of their Group 2 Asian-Oceania Davis Cup tie at the Philippine Columbian Association indoor claycourts today.

Following yesterday’s draw, southpaw Filipino-American Trent Huey takes on towering No. 1 Kiwi Daniel King-Turner in the opening singles, hoping to give the hosts the initiative at the start of the best-of-5 tie at 10 a.m.

Veteran Fil-Am Cecil Mamiit, on the other hand, makes his 10th straight Davis Cup appearance for the country when he battles Jose Statham, who was born in England but now plays for New Zealand, in the second singles.

RP non-playing team captain Chris Cuarto has chosen homegrown pair Johnny Arcilla and Elbert Anaste, a Davis Cup newcomer, for the pivotal doubles at 1 p.m. tomorrow against the tandem of King-Turner and Statham.

Cuarto and his New Zealand counterpart, James Greenhalgh, said they were satisfied with the outcome of the draw, although the Kiwi skipper seemed to be more pleased with the way it turned out.

“This is the outcome that we were praying for and we got it, so we’re happy with the way it came off,” said Greenhalgh, whose team arrived last weekend fresh from an eight-day training camp in Bangkok, Thailand to adjust to the hot and humid conditions in Manila.

“We’re looking to reverse the outcome the last time our teams met. I believe we have a much better team this time,” added Greenhalgh, recalling the 1-4 beating in Auckland when the two teams last met in 2007.

But he dismissed the notion that they were the favorites considering they have the higher-rated players, led by the 6-foot-3 KingTurner, who is in the top 300s of the ATP rankings.

“But this is the Davis Cup, so rankings don’t matter much. Anything can happen. It how you play on the day of the match that counts.”

Greenhalgh added that they were more concerned about the shell/clay surface at the Philippine Columbian “which is certainly a surprise for us. But I think we can adapt.”

The court conditions are expected the blunt the power and slow down the strokes of Kiwis, who are all known to be heavy hitters.

New Zealand enters the finals following 5-0 shutouts against Malaysia and Indonesia in their previous matches.

While coming from “extremely cold conditions in New Zealand,” he said they had offset this by training for a week in Thailand, whose climate is similar to the Philippines.

A native of Alexandria, Virginia and whose mother is a Filipina, Huey said he was happy to get first crack again, just like what he did in the previous tie against Pakistan on the same venue, which ended in a close 3-2 decision for the hosts.