By Jusitn Marville | Sun, April 29, 2012 - 12:02 AM
Barbados junior tennis couldn’t account for any winners at home but it sure did serve up some success overseas.
The country’s best young players are on top of the world again, or at least the Caribbean, having accounted for two singles titles and a doubles crown to go along with three other finals runs at recent tournaments in Trinidad and Jamaica.
The results proved the perfect rebound from a lacklustre showing at the ITF Juniors in March where no local players featured in any of the championship matches of the main draws.
And just one – Andrew Symmonds – advanced to a semi-final singles match.
But that string of defeats was quickly put behind them just weeks later as Ilana Blackwood lost a tough Under-14 Girls’ final to Antiguan Djeri Raymond 7-6, 6-3 in an ITF tournament in Trinidad.
And this was before the 13-year-old teen paired up with Raymond to capture the doubles title in a straight sets 6-2, 6-0 demolishing of Angelie Ramhit and Nichola Ramdyhan.
Symmonds too just missed out on individual glory, dropping the Under-14 Boys’ final after losing at the semi-final stage of the doubles draw.
However, Blackwood seemed to save her best for Jamaica.
Playing in an invitational tournament against the country’s Junior Davis Cup players, Blackwood stormed through the competition to take the Under-16 singles crown following a straight-sets final victory.
“It felt really good to win because I have improved drastically from last year, especially my serve,” said Blackwood in an interview at the Sandy Lane courts.
“By summer I would’ve hoped to improve my ground strokes as well.”
Her win was just the first of two singles titles for the visitors, who also saw Gavin Hutchinson beat Liam Luke 5-3, 4-0 in an all-Bajan Under-16 championship match.
This was just 15 minutes after Luke had to battle back for a gruelling 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 comeback semi-final win over Jamaican No. 2 Jacob Bicknell.
“It was a great experience for me even though I lost because it was really worthwhile,” acknowledged 15-year-old Luke.
“And it was good considering the disappointing performance I had at home, losing to a Mexican whom I thought I could’ve beaten. My serve let me down then and I wasn’t aggressive enough but I’ve got a lot better since though.”
“However, it’s not done for me just yet because I would love to compete in more ITF tournaments along with other bigger tournaments and get in the main draws and start getting a high ranking in the world,” he added.
Head pro at Sandy Lane, Richelle LeSaldo, who coaches most of the players competing in those two tours, credited the long hours of training and a willingness to improve for her wards’ results.
Those juniors are currently back in training preparing for another set of overseas assignments in less than two months.
“We’re still trying to figure out the schedule but we’re looking at some tournaments in Cuba, The Bahamas, the Eastern Caribbean, and maybe we might look at some tournaments in Central America,” LeSaldo disclosed.
“The schedule is really based on finance because it’s difficult without the backing, but right now we’re trying to prepare physically so that when we compete at the summer tournaments we will be strong and would have ironed out some technical issues.
“It’s good to go for the experience but we want to go to compete so by that time we would have put in all the work to allow us to do just that,” she reasoned.
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