#IPTL2015: Congratulations Slammers!

Who have thought Singapore Slammers would win the second season of International Premier Tennis League (IPTL)?

Singapore Slammers Won IPTL 2015
Courtesy: IPTL World

No one, probably. I never predicted it. I saw the Slammers vs Aces doubles match the night before the finale and I thought Slammers won by points (27:21) but the defending champion would have their revenge the following day.

I was wrong. The second season of IPTL was unpredictable till the very last piece of the puzzle. Singapore Slammers, as led by Nick Kyrgios in Japan, Manila and India legs began the race as an inferior losing their first match to UAE Royals in Kobe (20:26).

While in Manila, I remembered Slammers was consistently ranked fourth. Philippine Mavericks (pictured below), on the other hand, began strong in home soil. Thanks to Serena Williams for her dominance in women’s singles!

Mavs ranked number one after Day 1. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. Mavs fell to second place arriving in the third leg, continued to spiral down and ended in fourth place overall (11 matches played, 6 matches won, 253 games won, 48.1% games won percentage).

The Philipine Mavericks IPTL 2015

Slammers began to climb the team ranking when Andy Murray join the team in UAE leg. The 2013 Wimbledon Champion defeated Roger Federer in men’s singles (6-4). Overall, Slammers upset the home favorite by three points (27:24). The next day, Nick Kyrgios closed out the match (27:16) against Aces with a 6-1 confident win over Bernard Tomic.

Before the finale on December 20th, Slammers lost and won a match in home soil (23:27 vs Royals and 27:21 vs Aces). Slammers won 4 of 5 sets against Aces in the final match.

Expect the unexpected, as they say. Carlos Moya opened a 6-4 win over Fabrice Santoro. Belinda Bencic survived a scare from Svetlana Kuznetsova (6-5). Rohan Bopanna and Sania Mirza stayed invincible against Karolina Pliskova and Dustin Brown (6-2).

Stan Wawrinka, the 2015 French Open Champion, saved his team and wasted no time to defeat Bernard Tomic (6-3). Wawrinka partnered with Marcelo Melo to keep the momentum swinging in their favor 6-3 against Bopanna and Ivan Dodig.

5 legs. 5 teams. 5 stadiums. 18 days. 1 Champion: Congratulations Singapore Slammers!

#IPTL2015: The Unfinished Business

MY SECOND TRIP TO IPTL WAS UNCERTAIN

I haven’t recovered from all the expenses I spent last year when CNN revealed Rafael Nadal is confirmed to play in Manila. That’s around April 2015.

“Are you kidding me?,” I said to myself. Rafa needed no introduction. He’s the King of Clay and was one of the very first players I saw in TV. I saw him won French Open the day after Ana Ivanovic raised the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen.

I made up my mind. I took calculated risks and decided to come up with a new budget plan.

Backhand Stroke

Daddy and I were supposed to buy two upper box tickets. It’s all I could afford for the two of us. Yet, to make things better (less traffic and such), I decided to have the General Admission. This way, we could use the rest of the money for hotel booking near the Mall of Asia Arena.

The plan worked. All booked before our departure and listed below were my Top 10 happy moments (in random order):

Number One

Mr. Jun P. Fuentes is the senior manager in operations. We had the chance to meet him as we entered the indoor stadium. He told us we would take the nicest view in the upper box 417.

With Mr. Jun Fuentes

Then the next day (December 7, 2015), we met him again and he informed us to take the VIP. For a second, there were firecrackers in my mind. I couldn’t believe it. I shook his hand and thanked him happily.

Number Two

Due to tight security, these were the closest shots I could get to Rafael Nadal, Ana Ivanovic and Treat Huey. I was too close but not quite enough to meet them. No regrets though. Just saying.

Rafael Nadal in IPTL Manila

I needed to stand a little to see the whole court but never mind, I saw it before. I memorized it every inch. Time was wasted if I focus too much on the negative. This was a happy moment – the moment that I was living the time of my life. I was savoring every second before it ends. Believe me, it feels like I reached Nirvana!

Ana Ivanovic in IPTL Manila

I couldn’t feel my face every time I heard them hit the ball with full power. It’s a smashing sound of a clean plate unto a blank wall. I wondered what type of stretching and how many reps they regularly do to rotate their shoulders freely.

Treat Huey in IPTL Manila

Daddy did all the walking for me. He was with the Millennials. Luckily, he had the chance to have Rafa and Ana signed my Manila Mavericks cap. The missing pieces of a gigantic puzzle in me was instantly completed when I held this cap in my hands. Mission accomplished!

IPTL Manila in Mall of Asia Arena

Number Three

Goran Ivanisevic, the retired 2001 Wimbledon Champion, smiled at me. If only there’s such a thing as an invisible camera inside my brain, I would haven taken a quick snap and frame it.

Goran Ivanisevic in IPTL Manila

Team Royals was warming up for the match. I was there looking at their bench when out of the blue, Ivanisevic smiled directly at me. I smiled back but I was pretty sure he has no idea how my stomach was tied in knots. After their match, Goran and Kristina Mladenovic signed my Wii Virtua Tennis 4.

Number Four

I saw a total of six matches in three consecutive days. Philippine Mavericks, as led by the current world number 1 Serena Williams, was unbeaten versus UAE Royals (29:18), Warriors (25:21) and Aces (25:24).

As I predicted it, Serena won all her singles (6-3 vs Ana Ivanovic, Kurumi Nara and Samatha Stosur) but lost her two mixed doubles with Treat Huey.

Serena Williams in 2015 IPTL Manila

Richard Gasquet and Edouard Roger-Vasselin teamed up for the first time in doubles. It’s my first time to see them live. I remembered Gasquet due to his glorious one-handed backhand.

Truth is, he’s tagged as the Baby Federer, who became a two-time semifinalist in Wimbledon. Vasselin, however, was an unexpected French Open Champion in Doubles.

They played well, they moved well and they won in Day 1 against Tomas Berdych and Daniel Nestor (6-3). They lost a tight set, however, against Ivan Dodig and Rafael Nadal in Day 3.

Number Five

Last year, Coca-Cola handed me two tickets for lower-box. This year, they gave me a ball signed by the French Open Champion himself.

Unexpectedly, they also handed me freebies such as towel, t-shirt, tumblers, key chain and Powerade. Thank you, Coke!

Coca-Cola in IPTL Manila

We’re blessed to have Tony De Los Reyes. He was there to assist our needs such as getting to the right direction while wheeling my wheelchair. He’s an EMT of Philippine Red Cross. Here we were in one photo. As expected, I don’t know how to smile.

Philippine Red Cross in 2015 IPTL Manila

Number Six

Chris Portillo Meets Daniela Hantuchova
Chris Portillo’s iPhone

Daddy and I were having breakfast when Mr. Chris Portillo approached us in Microtel. He introduced himself then we shook hands.

We briefly talked about IPTL, his role in Rotary Club and he showed me photos with his tennis favorites such as Kristina Mldenovic, Gael Mofils, Goran Ivanisevic and Daniela Hantuchova.

I was kinda jealous upon discovering these photos were taken during the welcome party a day before the 2014 inaugural.

Mr. Portillo gave us his calling card and said to keep in touch.

Number Seven

Abhishek Ponia is the Operation Vice President of IPTL. I felt glad I met him. Basically, he was sitting in the VIP upper row when I told my dad to introduce himself to him. He approached me. I introduced myself, I wasn’t sure if he heard me but he sat beside me and he took pictures of the crowd using his smart phone.

Vice President of 2015 IPTL

Number Eight

It’s the last day of IPTL in Manila when I met Jason de la Peña. He’s a news reporter in Fox Sports Asia, which is one of my favorite channels in Cable TV. I always watched him hosting the Special Updates for French Open and Wimbledon with Anne Keothavong and Marion Bartoli, respectively.

Jason De la Pena

Number Nine

Lucky 9! Royals vs Slammers was the first scheduled match in Day 3. Ana Ivanovic was up against the fast rising-star Karolina Pliskova in the first. There again – I cheered for the Serbian superstar, who couldn’t hold serve. It looked like she had no rhythm to keep the ball in.

Ana Ivanovic survives a scare in IPTL Manila

I had no idea if she heard me every time I shouted “Ajde (Serbian term for Come on).” Though, here’s the catch. There was this one split second that I noticed she looked straight right at me. It’s quick but it’s real. I swear I wasn’t having hallucinations. There’s a stimuli. I saw it with my two eyes open wide and inside of me, I floated on a Cloud 9.

Surprisingly, Ana held serve at love and broke for a 5-3 lead. Momentum shifted again and Pliskova’s effortless aggressive game took the set to a shootout. Ana fearlessly found a way to survive and won (6-5).

Just curious, did I help her win?

Number Ten

The weather was good all throughout. It’s raining a bit when my dad and I arrived in Manila though it stopped. We left by plane a day after the show (December 9). We arrived in Davao City 40-minutes past lunch time.

Daddy and I headed to the nearest mall to eat lunch and to print the photos after. It’s a long day and I was quite sleepy. Sleepy but happier. Sleepy but more accomplished.

Special Mention

A week after, I was preparing myself to work when Mr. Ponia sent me a message via Facebook. It felt like I was still dreaming while reading his message. He said he left a parcel in City of Dreams (COD) Crown Towers exclusively for me. It’s the hotel where the IPTL Tennis players stayed.

I couldn’t believe it. Ask all the saints in heaven – I wasn’t expecting the message at all. Bringing myself back in reality after a second, I remembered I have a sister in Metro Manila. I immediately requested her to get it for me. I also sent an email to COD Concierge.

Due to rainy weather, it took her a while to get the parcel. When she finally received the parcel and opened it out of curiosity, it was a tennis ball signed by Rafael Nadal. VAMOS!

* * * * *

Here I am. The ball is in my hand at long last. The first moment I saw the ball, I immediately knew it’s something unique because Rafa put his RN Initials under his signature.

IPTL gave me a tennis ball signed by Rafael Nadal

I have his autobiography too. Daddy joined the crowd of screaming fans and let him signed it in Day 3.  Yet, there’s no initials. Thank you, Mr. Ponia. Expect me to keep this ball for the rest of my life. More and more success to IPTL!

My Top 5 112015

No one cares about this countdown but me.

5. Won’t Hurt Me by: Tweet

What you tryin’ to prove | You can move how you wanna move | The truth is I don’t care | I just wanna make it clear | Do whatever it is you gotta do it | Won’t hurt me | It won’t hurt me [AZ Lyrics]

4. Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix) by: Omi

Do you need me? | Do you think I’m pretty? | Do I make you feel like cheating? | I’m like no, not really ’cause | Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader | She is always right there when I need her | Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader | She is always right there when I need her [AZ Lyrics]

3. Friend Like Me by: Ne-yo

Mr. Aladdin, sir, have a wish or two or three. | I’m on the job you big nabob! | You ain’t never had a friend, never had a friend, | You ain’t never had a friend, never had a friend, | You ain’t never had a friend like me [Lyrics Mania]

2. Backyard Party by: R. Kelly

Hey hey, it’s | A backyard party | A backyard party | We’re just havin’ | A backyard party | We’re just havin’ | A backyard party [Genius]

(1.) No Sleeep (Album Version) by: Janet Jackson ft. J. Cole

You’re missing me | I’m missing you | Wherever we meet, we ain’t gonna get no sleep | You came to me to get back with you | It’s fait accompli, we ain’t gonna get no sleep [Direct Lyrics]

My Top 5 102015

No one cares about this countdown but me.

5. 28 Thousand Days by: Alicia Keys

There’s only 28 thousand days | Who would you love? | Where would you go? | What would you celebrate? | I’m telling you that life’s too short to just throw it away | So have the time of your life, so have the time of your life [AZ Lyrics]

4. My Baby Just Cares For Me by: Usher

She don’t care for shows | Unless it’s front row at my show now | My baby just cares for me | My baby don’t care for, rings or expensive things | My baby just cares for me, uhh [Metro Lyrics]

3. My Imagination by: John Legend

To hide in my imagination | There is always magic waiting | Never counting time | Always on my mind | There’s a place that only I see | Far away from all that haunts me | Inch by inch creating in my imagination [Direct Lyrics]

2. We’ve Got Love by: Babyface

I been thinking ’bout it | Ain’t no doubt about it | We got something that the world | Just can’t explain | It was the one thing | That makes it always work out | It’s cause we got love, love, love, love, love | If we got nothin’ else | We got love | It’s cause we got love, love, love, love, love | At least that’s something, yes | We got love [Genius]

(1.) No Sleeep (Album Version) by: Janet Jackson ft. J. Cole

You’re missing me | I’m missing you | Wherever we meet, we ain’t gonna get no sleep | You came to me to get back with you | It’s fait accompli, we ain’t gonna get no sleep [Direct Lyrics]

Survivor Insights 168: Second Chance, My Pre-show Favorites

Hi Survivor Fans,

Here in the Philippines, Jack TV will air the live episodes of Survivor Cambodia: Second Chances starting September 24, 2015 (Thursday, 9:50 PM).

This is the 31st season of the reality-competition show that features 20 returnees, three of which came from their first two seasons in 2000 and 2001. In other words, this is the first season in which old school meets middle and new schools.

Who will outwit, outplay and outlast? Who will get the second chance of a lifetime?
Survivor Cambodia: Second Chances

Old vs. Middle vs. New

Before answering those questions, let me share my observations first. It looks like these 20 names are picked from three different eras. Kelly, Andrew, Kimmi and Jeff are old-school survivors who played in season one (Borneo), in season seven (Pearl Islands) and in season two (Australian Outback) respectively.

Middle-school began in season nine (Vanuatu) and ended in season 20 (Heroes vs. Villains). Stephen (Tocantins), Monica (Samoa), Terry (Panama Exile Island) and Peih-Gee (China) will return for the first time to represent this period.

Twelve returnees come from the new-school, which began in season 21 (Nicaragua) and ended in season 30 (Worlds Apart). Joe (Worlds Apart), Jeremy (San Juan Del Sur), Keith (San Juan Del Sur), Ciera (Blood vs. Water), Tasha (Cagayan), Kass (Cagayan), Vytas (Blood vs. Water), Spencer (Cagayan), Woo (Cagayan), Abi-Maria (Philippines), Shirin (Worlds Apart) and Kelley (San Juan Del Sur) will complete the cast.

My Pre-show Favorites

These returnees are divided into two tribes – Bayon and Ta Keo. After careful evaluation, I notice Bayon Tribe is stronger than Takeo in terms of physical strength. Ta Keo will have Vytas, Spencer, Terry, Woo and Jeff but it appears these men can’t easily outplay the combined power in Joe, Jeremy, Stephen, Keith and Andrew.

The five women in Bayon and in Ta Keo stand on the same platform. It seems Ciera, Tasha, Kimmi, Kass and Monica can and will outwit, outplay, outlast Abi-Maria, Peih-Gee, Shirin, Kelley and Kelly without much problems.

Four of these returnees, one male and one female in each tribe, grab my attention as I re-assess their strategic accomplishments in their previous seasons.

Stephen Fishbach, 36, NY New York

Survivor_Cambodia_Stephen

Stephen is best remembered as one of the smartest strategists who never received a vote in the finale.

In Tocantins, he became a part of a cross-tribe alliance, which helped him survived the merge.

Stephen took risks. Some worked well. Some failed. Luckily, these risks never stopped him to glide into the final two with JT.

Cerebral, flexible and risk taker – that’s Stephen. He’s a power player with numerous Plan Bs in his head.

Returning as a first time returnee in a tribe filled with strong personalities, Stephen will seemingly make early sacrifices to bring his game to the next level.

Tasha Fox, 38, St. Louis Missouri

Survivor_Cambodia_Tasha

Tasha is best remembered as a rising proactive player in Cagayan. She orchestrated the plan to eliminate Garret as early as Episode 1.

Tasha made baby steps forward when the three tribes were reshuffled. She made the merge and protected herself by winning three immunity challenges in a row.

Spencer ended her winning streak, unfortunately. Without the necklace around her neck, Tasha attempted to make a last minute deal with Kass, Spencer and Woo.

Surprisingly, a deal isn’t enough to protect Tasha from all uncertainties. She became the sixth jury member.

Tasha stayed hungry in her first season. She was tested from the start but she chose to make her plans happen. She kept winning when least expected.

It’s a gamble to choose her as favorite. She might be viewed as an early threat. Yet, she seems unstoppable. Her journey continues and Tasha will still have an extra set of cards to play.

Jeff Varner, 49, Greensboro NC

Survivor_Cambodia_Jeff

It seems interesting to pick a favorite from an old school era. Jeff comes from a season that isn’t peppered with tribe reshuffle, hidden immunity idols and exile island.

Jeff sat in a good position as Kucha won three immunity challenges in a row. Unfortunately, Kucha lost two members before the merge.

Then, there’s the Tribal Council. Jeff and Colby found themselves hanging by a thread as votes and re-votes were tied at 5-5 and 4-4, respectively.

The luck didn’t side with Jeff. He was eliminated based on a vote he received in Episode 1.

Jeff returns for a second chance after 15 years. SURVIVOR changed a lot since. How will Jeff handle the tension? Is it enough to say Jeff doesn’t have the right weapons against the younger, fitter and smarter competitors?

Abi-Maria Gomes, 35, LA California

Survivor_Cambodia_Abi

I’m taking a great risk for choosing Abi-Maria. The ideal choice is Kelley but I realize Abi gets what it takes to stay longer after analyzing the series of events in their respective seasons.

Abi handled the situation well even if she’s labeled as the villain. She made the last five without overplaying. She even surprised herself by winning the immunity challenge in Episode 11.

Maybe, either luck played a major role in her game or Pete only helped her survived another day. Looking back, Abi played a game for herself. It was neither impressive nor bad. It’s misinterpreted even.

Her 36 days of survival, however, says it all. Abi will return and will use her invisible game to outlast others.

Photos Courtesy of: CBS, Jack TV Facebook