Jose Marie Pague turned back Vince Tugade, 6-1, 6-4, on Saturday and set in motion his bid to replicate, if not eclipse, his dream run in 2017 at the start of the 39th Philippine Columbian Association Open Tennis Championships at its indoor shell court in Plaza Dilao, Paco.
The victory sent the 24-year-old Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay native into the second round on Monday against the winner between Joshua Kinaadman and qualifier Hilbert San Jose at press time with hopes of fuelling another memorable campaign similar to five years ago.
The memory of that run is still fresh in Pague’s mind as he made the semifinals that year after beating grizzled veteran Enebert Anasta before he ran into the mighty Johnny Arcilla, the eventual winner who showed him the door.
“All of us playing here are aiming to win in this prestigious event. I hope to make a big run again and hopefully win it all,” said Pague, who is coming off a win in a tournament in Dumaguete and a semis effort in the Palawan Pawnshop tilt the week before.
Also advancing were Russel Arcilla and Neil Tangalin, who hurdled Dawson Ormoc, 7-6 (1), 6-0, and Aljohn Talatayod, 6-4, 6-4, respectrively, in this nine-day meet sponsored by Smart/PLDT, official ball Dunlop, Manila councilor Jong Isip, San Jose Salt, W. L. Food Products, Palawan Pawnshop and Pagcor.
Arcilla, the youngest of the four tennis-playing siblings from Butuan City, had to fend off Ormoc’s early challenge before imposing his will in the second set to seal their match that lasted a little less than an hour and a half.
“Never got past the first round here, this is my first time,” said the 32-year-old Arcilla, who is back playing competitively after taking a hiatus to go into full-time coaching.
For Tanggalin, a proud son of Baguio, his goal is to try to earn respect.
“I hope I could do better this year and earn respect,” said the 24-year-old former University of Cordilleras standout and age-group champion.
Marco Macalintal, an 18-year-old qualifier from San Pablo, Laguna, stole some of the spotlights by bringing down a higher-ranked Execquiel Jucutan, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, that launched his ambitious campaign.
“This is my first time in the seniors and I’m happy I won. I hope to win here someday, dreaming is free anyway,” said Macalintal, whose best finish in the PCA Juniors was a semis finish.
Meanwhile, men’s doubles action unfolds today with top seed Johnny Arcilla and Ronard Joven clashing with Mario and Raymart Sabas at 10 a.m. and No. 2 seed Leander Lazaro and Fritz Verdad battling Vaughn Codilla and Aljohn Talatayod at 11 a.m.
The tournament, which is backed by GAC Motors, GIMACA Convenience Store and Development Corp., Ourzen Chicken, HEAD, Ms. Rina Caniza, Mr. Benito Tan, Primo Dept Fuel Station, Kaizan Steel Trading, Cazneau, Inc. and Knaut Art Glass, stakes a total cash pot of around P1.1 million with P200,000 and P100,000 going to the men’s and women’s singles winners and P70,000 and P35,000 to the men’s and women’s doubles titlists.