By Kenmore Bynoe | Fri, December 28, 2012 - 12:05 AM
Mark “Venom” Griffith gave himself a belated Christmas gift when he captured the inaugural Silver Hill Road Tennis Championship in front of a large crowd at Silver Hill Courts on Boxing Day.
The highly anticipated showdown between Griffith and hometown favourite Victor “Earth” Ward escalated into a battle between Christ Church and a St Michael crowd that was smarting from Ward’s shocker over the previously invincible Julian “Michael Jackson” White in the quarter-finals.
In the end, the experience, superior all-round skills and fitness of Griffith gave him the match 21-16, 21-18, and justified his right to boast that he should be considered more than the best ‘B’ Class player in Barbados.
However, there was nothing “B” Class about the match with the likes of Minister of Sport and MP for the area Stephen Lashley and University of the West Indies lecturer Dr Don Marshall among the hundreds who were enthralled by the impressive skills of the two combatants.
With White, Antonio Daniel and the legendary Deighton “Pa” Roach in Griffith’s corner, the whole of Christ Church and some spectators from The Pine threw their support behind Ward, who avoided his customary slow start to lead Griffith 8-4, 10-8 and 13-11, in the first set.
From early Ward went for his unique chops and deadly “injections”. But, it was obvious that Griffith’s antidote of sheer speed to get to centre court was neutralizing those injections. Griffith locked the scores from ten right up to 14 when a rasping ace gave him a lead that he would not relinquish.
The fans went delirious when, at 19-16, Ward’s injection was converted into an injection of his own from the speedy Griffith to bring up set point at 20-16. A net shot from Ward then handed his opponent the first set.
With his back against the wall, Ward battled stronger in the second set while Griffith, heeding instructions from his battalion of consultants, played a high ball game as Ward was shown to lack a smash and repeatedly messed up when he went for the attacking shot.
Ward went ahead at 16-14 but Griffith battled back with gripping long rallies adding to the drama. A long hit from Ward saw Griffith taking the advantage to move to 18-16 as he won four straight points.
Ward tried desperately to bounce back but Griffith was unrelenting and took the match and the acclamation of the fans who rushed and held him aloft.
Griffith said that he had worked even harder on his fitness to play the finals.
“I knew that the only way to deal with Earth’s injections was to be even fitter and I spent a lot of time at Brandons running forward and backwards on the sand.
“Even so, Earth played a tremendous game and I knew that I had to take him out in two because although I was getting and countering the injections, I was beginning to feel a burning and a third set would have been problems for me,” said Griffith.
Ward admitted that Griffith was the better player on the night. However, enticed by his performance in the tournament, the virtual unknown declared: “I want to be a part of any road tennis competition from now on in Barbados.
“This final confirmed my strong defensive game but I have to go away and work on my attack so that I can complete my all-round game for competitions of this calibre,” added the tournament MVP Ward.
Earlier, Pierre Nurse took the “B” Class crown by topping the dreadlocked Desmond “Hatcher” Wooding, 21-18, 21-18, while a tremendous Yuletide appetizer of skills in the Juniors saw Adrian Williams beating his Silver Sands neighbour Damario Ward, 22-20, 20-22, 21-15.
Williams won a laptop while Ward was presented with a tablet. Griffith earned $1 000, Victor Ward took $500 and third placed Adrian “Dan” Skeete won $250. The ‘B’ Class champion Pierre won $500, Wooding took home $300 and Rohan “Bill” Went won $200.
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