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Players disappointed, but looking forward to next year

Kevin “K.J.” Major Jr.

July 1, 2020

Simba French

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The Bahamas has arguably put together one of its best Davis and Fed Cups teams, collectively, in recent years, but those two teams will have to wait a bit longer to compete as both of their tennis tournaments have been postponed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There were rumors circulating about a possible postponement of the tournaments, and the official announcement was made by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) in separate press releases late last week.

Set to represent The Bahamas on the Fed Cup team were Kerrie Cartwright, Sydney Clarke, Larikah Russell and Simone Pratt. The national men’s team that was headed to play in the Davis Cup competition included Justin Roberts, Kevin Major Jr., Baker Newman and Marvin Rolle.

Outgoing Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association (BLTA) President Darnette Weir said she understands the ITF’s decision.

“It is certainly disappointing but the ITF has the best interest of all of its stakeholders at heart. This pandemic has touched every facet of the world and the health and safety of the athletes and spectators are the first priority,” Weir said.

No date or time was set for the Americas Group III Davis Cup competition this year. However, Team Bahamas was scheduled to be grouped with 12 other nations from the Americas Zone – Panama, Honduras, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. Last year, The Bahamas finished with a 2-3 win-loss record in tournament play and fell to Honduras in the final.

The women’s national team was set to play in the Americas Zone Group II Fed Cup Tournament in Panama City, Panama, during the week of June 8 to 13. They were in Event A against Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Uruguay and host nation Panama. A first place finish would promote The Bahamas to the Americas Zone Group I.

ITF President David Haggerty said: “This is a tough decision to have to make, but delivering an international team event on this scale while guaranteeing the health and safety of all involved ultimately poses too great a risk. It is a complex undertaking and we have made a decision now to provide certainty for players, national associations and fans.”

Whether or not the teams will remain intact, Weir said that it will be up to the new administration. The BLTA’s election of officers is set for this Saturday at the National Tennis Centre. Weir is not seeking re-election.

“As I am exiting the office of president, the new administration will have to make that decision. Personally, I believe since it is a postponement to 2021 and not a cancelation of the events, these athletes should be allowed to represent the country once they are still training and participating in tournaments to prepare them for the Davis and Fed Cup events,” Weir said.

Rolle said he was looking forward to playing in his 17th Davis Cup Tie for The Bahamas. He still yearns for that opportunity.

“I am a little bit disappointed that we could not play this year,” he said. “We had a good team with Justin being new to the team and up there with his world ranking. There was also KJ (Major) and Baker and myself. I think we had a strong team this year. Unfortunately, we could not play. It is what it is but I am sure that it will give other players inspiration to work hard. Definitely next year, we are going to have a better and stronger team.”

Roberts is the highest ranked Bahamian player at number 416 in the ITF singles rankings. This was set to be his first appearance at Davis Cup. Major is the reigning BLTA Senior Men’s National Champion and a five-team member of the Davis Cup team. Newman was the runner-up to Major at the nationals as was making his fourth appearance at Davis Cup.

Clarke, who left the junior ranks as the top junior female in the country, said that she was excited to play but disappointed in the postponement.

“I was very excited and looked forward to playing Fed Cup this year. I was preparing myself to do better than the last time and represent my country once again. It’s always an honor to play for my country. I was very disappointed that it was postponed until 2021 since I had prepared all year long for this event,” Clarke said.

The reigning Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture Junior Female Athlete of the Year said she cannot wait for next year. She said she is looking forward to helping out however she can. She first appeared on the team back in 2017, and was on the team that lost in the final to Peru last year.

The team has a lot of experience, with both Cartwright and Russell playing in multiple Fed Cup tournaments – 10 in particular for Russell. This will be the sixth time for Pratt.

Russell has the most wins with 31 overall and the most doubles wins with 17 for The Bahamas. Cartwright has the most singles wins with 19.

No new dates have been decided for the tournaments as yet.

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