Monday, March 07, 2011

Fair Play: Thank you, Cecil Mamiit

AFTER losing an epic battle to Tatsumi Ito, Cecil Mamiit approached the net to shake the hands of his Japanese conqueror.

He took a quick glance at the crowd, paused, shrugged his shoulders then tapped his heart, twice.

He seemed almost apologetic, as if he was afraid the crowd would demand refunds because he lost.

The standing ovation he got proved that notion was incorrect.

He stood there, at the net, tapped his heart again, then pointed to the crowd.

He didn’t have to say it but we knew what he meant.

“That’s for you,” he was saying.

He lost a match he could have won, we all know that. But disappointed as we were, nothing compares to his disappointment.

“I’m sorry for the results,” the US-born Pinoy said in the post-match press conference.

But he has nothing to be sorry about. Not after that epic six-hour match, the longest sports match I’ve ever seen, live or on TV.

Down two breaks and two sets to one, against a foe 12 years younger and ranked 567 places higher who was serving for the match, Mamiit produced the best tennis I’ve ever seen.

Mamiit broke Ito’s serve again and again.

Line drives, passing shots, cross-court returns, drop shots and volleys broke Ito’s spirit for eight of the next nine games as Mamiit won the fourth set tiebreak and took a 4-0 lead in the fourth.

The breaks, too, went Mamiit’s way. In the fourth-set tiebreak, while tied at 5 all, Mamiit’s baseline drive that was clearly two inches off the line was ruled in.

But he didn’t win. I guess, it wasn’t meant to be. If it was a Hollywood movie, we would have the ending we wanted. Mamiit would have won, while serving for that match at 5-4 with two match points. He should have won after saving three match points on his serve, twice.

I think Mamiit ran out of gas in that match and Ito—who also got an ovation—was simply, too young, too good and too strong. But Mamiit never ran out of spirit.

Fil-ams or Fil-foreigners get a lot of flak for supposedly taking away the opportunities for local talents—a frustration of many basketball players.

But Mamiit showed otherwise. He reminds me of the spunk Asi Taulava—ironically, the most lambasted “Fil-Sham”—showed in the 2002 Asian Games. When everybody gave up, when the rest of the team lost their spirit after losing to South Korea in the semifinals, Asi didn’t.

Just like the Fil-foreigners-laden Azkals, when things got tough, Asi got tougher. So did Cecil.

And that’s very Pinoy, isn’t it? We laugh at adversity, don’t we?

If we need poster boys for the Filipino spirit, put in Cecil Mamiit’s face, prominently. Right next to the Azkals. These guys don’t give up.

I hope Mamiit won yesterday. I hope Treat Huey, did, too.

I wanted to write about those games for today’s column and report but I can’t. I don’t have the stamina to do a Cecil Mamiit in this section.

I hope, too, to see Cecil Mamiit in action, again. And I hope that I’d be just a fan, not a writer. Just a simple fan enjoying the game.

Because it is very rewarding to see Cecil Mamiit in action for the country.

I hope he can play for us, in the SEA Games this year.

Because that’s a very apt reward for a guy who doesn’t give up.

Thank you, Cecil.

You made us proud.

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