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32nd SEA Games

SEA Games: El Niños aim for three-peat in men’s doubles

Doubles specialists Ruben Gonzales and Francis Casey Alcantara are aiming for a unique achievement in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games’ tennis competitions, set to take place in Phnom Penh from May 9 to 14. They seek to secure a three-peat in the men’s doubles category.

In the 2019 SEA Games held in the Philippines, Alcantara partnered with Jeson Patrombon to claim the gold medal, causing an upset against compatriots Gonzales and former world No. 18 Treat Huey in an all-Filipino final.

Gonzales and Treat secured their own gold medals at the Vietnam SEA Games last year, defeating Alcantara and Patrombon in a rematch of the all-Filipino final.

This time, Gonzales and Alcantara, coincidentally nicknamed Niño, will join forces to defend the Philippines’ title in the SEA Games men’s doubles.

As the top seeds in the competition, they received a bye in the opening round.

Alcantara is confident about their chances in this year’s edition of the SEA Games. “I think we are ready. It’s always fun playing alongside Ruben. Last year, we competed against each other in the final. I’m happy to be on the same side as him this time,” shared the pride of Cagayan de Oro.

He has good reason to feel confident.

Alcantara has been performing impressively in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) pro circuit over the past two months. In seven international tournaments since the third week of March, Alcantara secured one ITF doubles title, finished as runner-up twice, and reached the semifinals twice. He is currently ranked 310th in the world, the fourth highest-ranked Southeast Asian in men’s doubles, behind Gonzales, Treat, and Christopher Rungkat of Indonesia.

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Gonzales, on the other hand, achieved his career-high world ranking of 116 earlier this year. With his current position of 130th in the world, he is the highest-ranked men’s doubles player from Southeast Asia.

However, the Filipino top seeds remain cautious of the high-caliber field they will face. The Thai second seeds, Thantub Suksumran and Pruchya Isaro, who happens to be Alcantara’s doubles partner on the pro tour, pose the biggest threat. The veteran Rungkat and 18-year-old Nathan Anthony Barki, seeded third, will also contend for the doubles gold.

“We will take it one match at a time. All the other countries are eager to win a medal, especially in doubles since we have dominated it in the last two editions of the SEA Games. We are ready, but we will not be overconfident,” said Alcantara.

Miko Eala and Eric Olivarez will form the other Filipino duo in the men’s doubles competition. Both products of the US NCAA, Eala and Olivarez aim to create an all-Filipino final in men’s doubles while also competing in the singles event.

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