Pratt chosen as player/captain; ready to lead young women into action
The Bahamas’ senior women’s national tennis team is ready to battle in the 2022 Billie Jean King (BJK) Cup competition that gets underway today at the Centro Nacional De Tenis Parque Del Este in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. They got their final practice session during a media day at the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association’s (BLTA) National Tennis Centre yesterday. They will leave for Santo Domingo today.
Playing for The Bahamas in the hard surface tournament are Simone Pratt (player/captain), Sydney Clarke, Elana Mackey and Sierra Rodgers.
This is Pratt’s time as captain. She said she got some advice from previous player/captains.
“It feels great to be able to travel, first time as a captain and be able to guide my teammates. It feels great to be able to play and I am looking forward to that. I spoke to Marvin Rolle and Kerrie Cartwright and they gave me quite a few tips on what to do and what to expect. I am looking forward to this tournament,” Pratt said.
Pratt was selected to play for The Bahamas in last year’s tournament but did not make the trip. She said she is happy to be taking part this year.
“It drove me to work harder to be able to come out here again and play in these types of events for the country,” Pratt said.
Clarke and Mackey are the only two players to return to the tournament from last year’s quartet that played. Clarke said she is happy to compete for her country again and is looking forward to playing with Pratt and the rest of the young ladies.
“She (Pratt) is the most experienced player on the team. I am still learning and I have a lot to learn. I feel that she will do a great job leading the team,” Clarke said.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) collegiate player said that she is prepared for the trip.
“I feel prepared, being able to play over the years, even playing with some of my competitors from juniors,” Clarke said. “I feel as though we have a great chance and shot at getting the title this year. Once we make a plan and work hard, we will be fine. I am very happy that we are able to compete as COVID starts to clear up. It is great to be able to travel and have no worries about not being able to play.”
Mackey feels confident that the team can do well in the Dominican Republic.
“I feel that we can advance to the semifinals in this tournament. My experience helps because I know the levels of the other teams and the type of players they have. I know what type of balls to expect and how to play to get a win for my team,” Mackey said.
She is looking forward to Pratt’s input in helping the team to play better and in motivating them.
Sierra Rodgers, 16, is one of the youngest players to ever represent The Bahamas at the competition. She said she looked up to her teammates when she was younger.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for me,” Rodgers said. “I just want to learn and grow from this experience. I am among great tennis players so this will be a fun trip and I am going to learn and grow. It will help me when I go off to college. I have a lot of butterflies, but I have to get past that and help the team.”
Rodgers hopes to gain resilience from this tournament as she grows mentally and physically.
President of the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association (BLTA) Perry Newton said he has confidence in this team.
“We expect for the ladies to go out there and compete. It will be a very tough competition and we believe that we have the potential to finish in the top six because the pool is so much bigger than normal with about 17 teams that we will be competing against instead of eight or nine teams. The ladies will do well, and I am excited for Rodgers since this is her first time. She is traveling with a group of well-grounded ladies, so she is traveling with a good team,” Newton said.
The BLTA was able to procure a sponsor for the team in Fidelity Bank, which has been sports friendly, having sponsored many sporting events and teams. On hand at the media day was Fidelity Bank’s Media and Communications Manager Paige Nixon-Bartlett. She said that they thought this was a very good initiative.
“Fidelity loves to focus on our youth and support sports initiatives that our Bahamian people are doing. We love to see young people being active and doing something they love to do. We wish them all the best and give them our full support,” Nixon-Bartlett said.
The Bahamas will be one of 17 nations that will be competing. These include Aruba, Barbados, Bermuda, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, the US Virgin Islands and Venezuela. It was 18 teams initially but Trinidad and Tobago withdrew.
The countries will play in a round-robin format. There will be four pools, three pools with four teams and one pool with five teams. The winners of each pool will compete in two promotional playoff matches and the two winners will advance to the Americas Group I for 2023. All other teams will play for positional placement. No teams will be relegated.