When Filipino tennis fans first heard about the upcoming Davis Cup matchup between the Philippines and Greece, many were doubtful that world number six Stefanos Tsitsipas would deem it worthy of his presence. After all, the tie was only a World Group II play-off and, while that is nothing to sniff at in the grand scheme of things, tennis enthusiasts would assume a player of the 21-year-old’s caliber would be better served elsewhere, perhaps preparing for the spring hardcourt swing or European clay season.
So when photos of the Greek arriving at NAIA started circulating social media yesterday, many were absolutely thrilled. Fans were reminded just how much Davis Cup means to many pro players, sometimes seemingly carrying the same gravitas as an Olympic competition. Tsitsipas arrived Monday night with his father and coach Apostolos, brother and teammate Petros, and personal trainer Christos Fiotakis. The rest of his Davis Cup team—captain Dimitris Chatzinikolaou, Markos Kalovelonis, Apostolos Michalakas, Georgios Karamanis, and Michail Pervolarakis—arrived earlier on March 2nd.
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The Greeks and Filipinos will go up against each other on Friday and Saturday, March 6 to 7, at the Philippine Columbian Association courts in Paco, beside the Skyway expansion project and near Plaza Dilao. Team Philippines will be bannered by Ruben Gonzales, Jeson Patrombon, Francis Casey Alcantara, AJ Lim, Eric Olivarez Jr, and team captain Chris Cuarto.
Tsitsipas had a rough start to his 2020, losing in the third round of the Australian Open and the round of 16 in Rotterdam, and not living up to his seeding in either tournament. But he turned things around in the last two weeks; he defended his title in Marseilles without dropping a set and made the finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships, losing only to an in-form Novak Djokovic.
Born to a tennis pro mother and a tennis trainer father, Tsitsipas is currently the youngest player in the ATP’s top 10 world rankings. He is the highest-ranked Greek tennis player in history, and was a former world number one junior. Last year, he made history by becoming the youngest winner of the season-ending ATP Finals in eighteen years, beating Dominic Thiem in the closely-contested final at London’s O2 Arena. Last year, the young Greek played in the Davis Cup for the first time, and won all of his matches in straight sets.
The premier international team event in men’s tennis, the Davis Cup has been around since 1900, and began as a match against the United States and Great Britain. Today, the year-long annual competition is thought of as the World Cup of Tennis, and is played between nations all over the world, all fighting for a place in the Davis Cup finals in November. But there are several stages and tiers to get to that point.
For example, the Davis Cup matchup between Greece and the Philippines is a World Group II play-off. Whoever wins will qualify for World Group II in July, where there will compete with the other winners. Should a team wins then, they qualify for the World Group 1 play-offs.
While the Philippines is the seeded team, many see them as the underdogs because of the presence of their pedigreed top player. None of the other players in the tie is anywhere near his ranking, nor the big titles or wins. (Team Greece’s number two singles player, Michail Pervolarakis, is ranked in the 400s.)
Whatever the outcome, expect a frenzied Filipino crowd at Philippine Columbian, with all eyes on and in awe of Greece’s young hero.
Tickets for the Davis Cup tie are available at the venue and at the Philippine Tennis Association (PHILTA) office. Daily tickets are PHP 500 and PHP 800 for two days. For more information, visit the PHILTA Facebook page