Jean Henri Lhuillier: 3 Decades after, his passion for helping Philippine Tennis & Softball continues
Jean Henri Lhuillier, the visionary who changed the landscape of microfinance in the country, has been also helping transform the country’s sports program in a big way. A stalwart supporter of Philippine sports for over 30 years, his extensive contributions span multiple disciplines including basketball in the past. But most notably, Lhuillier was celebrated for his commitment to grassroots sports development and for bolstering the country’s national teams of both softball and tennis.
TENNIS PATRON FOR 3 DECADES
Lhuillier’s first foray in supporting tennis development in the Philippines started way back in 1998 with the staging of a series of Cebuana Lhuillier Men’s Tennis Open tournaments and ever since that, there was no stopping him from pushing Philippine tennis to greater heights.
He has since helped the development of tennis in the Philippines through various ways such as grassroots program through the Cebuana Lhuillier Age Group tennis which has consistently held more than 50 tournaments nationwide for more than a decade already. From these tournaments were the likes of future national team members like Francis Casey Alcantara and Jeson Patrombon were discovered.
He has also been a staunch supporter of the national team having been a team manager numerous times of both the Davis Cup and Southeast Asian Games national teams. Aside from national teams, he and his company Cebuana Lhuillier has been supporting the individual international campaigns of top tennis players such as Cecil Mamiit, Eric Tainio, Katharina Lehnert and Treat Huey in the past to current stars Ruben Gonzales and Francis Casey Alcantara helping all of them reach their highest world rankings in both singles and doubles.
He was also responsible in making the sport popular in the country bringing top international players in the country through the ATP Men’s Challenger as the ITF Men’s Futures tournaments. He also was the team manager and co-owner of the Manila and Philippine Mavericks in the International Premier League with tennis superstars Serena Williams and Andy Murray among his players.
As president of the Unified Tennis Philippines (UTP) for 7 years, Lhuillier has been responsible also for supporting top junior players to play in Asian junior tournaments as well as the WTA Future Stars. Thru the UTP, Lhuillier continues to support nationwide tournaments in both juniors and open sections.
MAN BEHIND PHILIPPINE SOFTBALL’S RESURGENCE
As president of the Amateur Softball Association of the Philippines (ASAPHIL) for 17 years already, Lhuillier has been responsible for the resurgence of the sport of softball.
Just like in tennis, Lhuillier has been supporting both the grassroots programs as well the national teams though ASAPHIL.
ASAPHIL, under the leadership of Lhuillier has been conducting tournaments such as the annual Summer Grand Slam National Open, Batang Pinoy, Palarong Pambansa, Philippine National Games among others. They have also been active conducting softball clinics for all stakeholders: players, coaches and even tournament officials.
With Lhuillier at the helm, the RP Blu Girls and Blu Boys have been performing extremely well in internal competitions. RP Blu Girls have won 7 straight SEAGames gold medals, silver medal in the 2017 Asian Women’s Softball Championships and have been in the top 4 five times. They boast of beating several top 10 world-ranked teams in previous World Cup competitions and was previously ranked number 1 in Asia prior to the pandemic. They are currently ranked number 4 in Asia and number 12 in the world.
Not to be left behind, the RP Blu Boys have been excelling as well with 4 gold medals in SEA Games, 5 silver medals in Asian Men’s Softball championships and was top 10 in the 2022 World Cup. They are currently ranked number 3 in Asia and number 10 in the World.
But there has been no stopping for Lhuillier and his wards. This year 2023 has been a huge year for Philippine Softball in the international arena. No less than 4 national teams qualified for the World Cup.
RP Blu Boys secure a bronze medal in the 12th Men’s Softball Asia Cup last June to qualify for the Men’s Softball World Cup. The RP Blu Girls snagged fourth place in the 18th Women’s Softball Asia Cup 2023 held last July to book a World Cup berth. The Under-15 girls’ team secured a bronze medal and has additionally clinched a spot in the 2023 WBSC World Cup for U15 Women’s Softball. Meanwhile, another team groomed by ASAPHIL, the Co-ed squad, is intensively preparing for this year’s WBSC Co-Ed Slow Pitch Softball World Cup, following their impressive silver medal performance in the Co-Ed Slow Pitch Softball Asia Cup last May.
ON TO THE ASIAN GAMES
As his softball and tennis athletes prepare to see action in the upcoming Asian Games with the RP Blu Girls and Ruben Gonzales and Francis Casey Alcanatar vying for medals, Jean Henri Lhuillier declares he will not pause until the Philippines’ softball and tennis teams under his watch succeed in seizing the glory and recognition they so deserve. Far from resting on his laurels, Lhuillier is energized for the challenges ahead:
“I’m just getting started. I am incredibly optimistic about the future of Philippine softball and tennis. I firmly believe we have the potential to be world leaders in these sports, and I am committed to making this vision a reality.”