NEW ZEALAND has tweaked its lineup in favor of fielding its “A-Team” against the Cebuana Lhuillier-Philippine Davis Cup team in their Asia Oceania Group 2 final this weekend in Cebu.
The Kiwis’ top player Jose Statham, ranked 295th in the world, was tapped as last-minute replacement for Daniel Turner-King, joining world No. 373 Michael Venus and No. 447 Artem Sitak in the tie to be held at Plantation Bay Spa and Resort in Lapu-Lapu City.
Statham and Venus didn’t see action in the first two ties for New Zealand this year before being named in the promotional tie against the Filipinos.
The three also played for NZ in its 5-0 rout of the country two years ago in its home court. They arrived Saturday in Lapu-Lapu City from Shanghai where they competed in a Challenger event.
The United States-based PH Cuppers Ruben Gonzales, Francis Casey Alcantara and Treat Huey were scheduled to arrive late last night in Cebu a day after arrival of the coaching staff and Johnny Arcilla.
“That goes to show that they regard this tie very highly,” said PH team captain Roland Kraut of the Kiwis. “They are using their best team. But it’s a different story because we are now playing here with our own best team.”
He added that the confidence of the team is high. “We are not thinking of our 2011 loss to them, because now we have Treat and Ruben is on the rise.”
The Philippines still leads 3-2 in its Davis Cup encounter against New Zealand, which won the 2011 tie on grass minus Huey, who has since moved up in doubles ranking to 32nd and just reached the quarterfinal of the US Open with long-time British partner Dominic Inglot.
Team manager Jean Henri Lhuillier said that rankings hardly matter in a team competition like Davis Cup where court of choice and hometown crowd play key roles.