NOVEMBER 7, 2008
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - PBA legend Alvin Patrimonio’s daughters Christine and Clarice are booked to compete in the two-day qualifying tournament for 15 tickets to the main draw of the Holcim International Tennis Federation (ITF) women’s tournament at the Rizal Memorial Courts.

There are 26 players listed in the qualifiers starting this Sunday. The main draw for 32 netters, including 17 seeds, begins on Tuesday and ends Nov. 16.

The two-day qualifiers for the PLDT-Smart second leg of the ITF women’s circuit will commence Nov. 16 with the main draw reeling off on Nov. 18, also at the Rizal Memorial courts. Each leg offers a pot of $10,000.

After the two-leg series, tennis benefactor Oscar Hilado is hosting a pair of ITF junior events.

“To achieve something in tennis, you have to be playing 25 to 30 international events with ranking points at any level whether junior or professional,” said Ajay Pathak, vice president of the Philippine Tennis Association. “The tournaments vary in points based on prize money. However, at the junior level, there is no prize money but tournaments are still classified from Group 5 to Group A. Group 5 is the lowest level where a junior player begins. Group A is the highest, normally the junior events of the Grand Slams.”

Pathak said Filipino junior players are virtually ignored in the rankings because they are hardly able to compete abroad. To rank the players, he said hosting events locally is crucial. “As host, we are allowed a certain number of wildcards which we can give to our players although they are not ranked and this gives the opportunity to win a few matches and get points,” explained Pathak. “Alternately, we also at times give a wildcard to similar foreign players so that we can make a reciprocal arrangement for our players with other countries. In spite of this, our players are still getting only two to three events to play a year.”

Hilado thought of giving the Filipino youngsters a break by organizing the junior event three years ago at the Group 5 level. Now, the level is up to Group 4.

Confirmed to participate in the Holcim leg are Jia Jing Lu of China, Lavinia Tananta of Indonesia and Thuy Dung Nguyen of Vietnam. Players from Thailand, Korea, Australia, Uzbekistan and France are also in the cast.

Among the qualifying hopefuls are local girl Jessica Marie Agra, Asha Nanda Kumar of Indonesia and Jawainah Noordin of Malaysia. In the alternates pool is Filipina Michelle Pang.

Christine, 16, and Clarice, 14, moved to Valencia, Spain, in May 2006 with their mother Cindy to enrol in an exclusive tennis academy for only 50 players under coach Tomas Mecho. After a short break here, Clarice will return to Spain but Christine may decide to stay home.

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San Miguel Beer skills coach Alton Lister’s brother James played as an import for CDCP in the 1981 PBA season. Alton, 50, enjoyed a 16-year career in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics, Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics and Portland Trail Blazers. James, 57, never played in the NBA.

Last season, Alton was an assistant coach with the Atlanta Hawks. Former San Miguel coach Ron Jacobs’ close friend Paul Howard recommended Alton, a seven-footer, to the Beermen who were on the lookout for a skills mentor to polish the post moves of big men Dorian Peña, Samigue Eman, Jay Washington and Mick Pennisi. Howard and Alton played for Arizona State during their college years.

Alton, who was the Bucks’ first round draft pick in 1981, coached seven years at Mesa Community College in Arizona and was an instructor at Pete Newell’s Big Man Camp in Las Vegas. He was picked to play on the US team for the 1980 Moscow Olympics but never got to compete because of the Free World boycott to protest Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.

San Miguel coach Siot Tanquingcen said Alton will work with the team until the end of the Philippine Cup.

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ALA Promotions president Michael Aldeguer said recently there are plans to stage a big card in Dubai next March and WBO Asia-Pacific minimumweight champion Milan Melindo may be featured along with stablemate Rey (Boom Boom) Bautista.

Bautista, 22, is now in Las Vegas training for his Nov. 22 bout against Mexican veteran Heriberto Ruiz. He flew out with another ALA prospect Michael Domingo last Oct. 28.

Ruiz, 31, has a 39-7-2 record, with 23 KOs compared to Bautista’s 26-1, with 19 KOs. The Mexican turned pro in 1994 when Boom Boom was only eight years old. The match will be in the undercard of the Ricky Hatton-Paul Malignaggi mainer for the IBO lightwelterweight crown at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno, who organized a Cagayan de Oro card highlighted by Melindo’s third round knockout over Tanzania’s Juma Fundi last week, predicted big things to come for the unbeaten fighter.

“Milan’s definitely world-class,” said Moreno. “I hope he goes far in his career and someday fights in Las Vegas.”

Watching the Melindo-Fundi fight at ringside in the Atrium of the Limketkai Mall were Education Secretary Jesli Lapus, WBO Asia Pacific chairman Leon Panoncillo of Hawaii and Golden Boy matchmaker Sampson Lewkowicz who flew in from his Las Vegas home.

Melindo’s win was welcome news to his 54-year-old father Milan Sr. who is teetering on unemployment with his rubber bushing shop due for demolition by the Cagayan de Oro City government. Melindo has eight half brothers and sisters from his mother Lita’s first marriage – she was widowed – and a full older sister Elmie with his father. For each bout, Melindo sends home P10,000.

Melindo started boxing at the age of eight then honed his skills in former Asian Games gold medalist Roberto Jalnaiz’ amateur program supported by Gov. Moreno. He turned pro three years ago and has since compiled a 17-0 record, with five KOs.

In the undercard, hometowner Jason Pagara shook off the effects of the flu to carve out a unanimous 12-round decision over veteran Arnel Porras to capture the vacant Philippine lightweight crown. Pagara, 17, was a ghost of his old self and fought listlessly but still managed to trounce Porras who suffered a flash knockdown in the third round. The win raised his record to 16-1, with nine KOs. Porras’ slate fell to 17-15-3, with six KOs.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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