Huey flying the flag for Philippines

Treat Huey may not be a name too well known outside of the Philippines, but he’s determined to up his profile, and that of tennis in the Philippines.

Huey became the first Filipino to make it to the semi-final of a grand slam when he and Andreja Klepac progressed to the final of the mixed doubles competition at the Australian Open. This success followed on from a successful 2015 in which Huey claimed three ATP Tour doubles titles. At 30, Huey has much tennis still in him, and as with many doubles players appears to be hitting his prime in his latter years.

But it’s not just on-court accolades that motivate Huey. While born and raised in the United States, Huey proudly represents the Philippines, and is actively working to elevate the level of tennis in the region. One of the ways in which he is doing so is by serving as a mentor to Filipino youngsters coming through the ranks, youngsters such as 16-year-old AJ Lim.

“It’s really special for me to be sort of the leader for Philippines tennis,” he told FOX Sports. “AJ Lim was watching my match, and it’s been good to hang out with him and his coach over the last couple of days.

“Hopefully more and more people from the Philippines will rise through the tennis rankings, and he’s one of them for sure. He’s a good junior.”

He added: “Some of those younger players are good and hopefully they’ll develop into world class players who play in the grand slams and all the ATP events.”

Huey believes that key to getting more Filipino youngsters involved in tennis is having many tournaments in the country and in Southeast Asia as a whole. The WTA Tour Finals were held in Singapore last year, while one leg of the International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) was held in Manila itself, all of which are steps in the right direction according to Huey.

“There was an ATP Challenger event in Manila [in January] and I think that’s a good thing for tennis, more youngsters can see that it’s a way to make it professionally in sport,” he explained.

“With basketball being the biggest sport in the Philippines hopefully some of the good, young athletes will look to tennis as something they can be a professional in and travel the world doing.”

Huey remains realistic, though, this is not going to happen overnight.

“It takes time for sure,” he said. “Some of those younger players are good and hopefully they’ll develop into world class players who play in the grand slams and all the ATP events.”

While Southeast Asia does not currently possesses many tennis players competing at the highest level, other Asian countries the likes of Japan and China are blessed with a number of top tennis players, with Kei Nishikori a constant in the men’s top 10 and Zhang Shuai’s fairytale run at the Australian Open captivating the tennis world.

Huey concedes that having high profile players from the Philippines would increase the sport’s profile, and accelerate development, and that’s all part of the plan that those heading tennis in the region are looking to implement.

“Countries like China, Japan, and Korea, have had some great players in recent years and we’re looking at that and hoping that five, six, seven years down the road we have the same infrastructure and players getting into the top 100 in singles and doubles.

“Hopefully, that will happen in the future and we would love that it happen. I know that myself and a lot of people in the Philippines tennis association are really working hard for that.”

Speaking to Huey, it’s clear that he’s passionate about tennis in the Philippines, and that passion is being fuelled by new-found optimism.

“For sure [I’m upbeat]. Having had the IPTL in Manila for the past two years has made tennis more popular, and there are younger players in the Philippines who I think could make it professionally which is good.

“Before it perhaps didn’t look so bright, now there are chances for younger kids to grow and to make it on the world tour, so hopefully they can do that, and hopefully, I can help, it would be great.”