In this edition of On The Ball, NATION sports writer Justin Marville does a brief review of Barbados’ 3-2 Davis Cup victory over Guatemala.
WELL, here we are again.
And in quick time, too.
It really didn’t take long for Barbados to put themselves on the verge of returning to Group I after they were demoted just six short months ago.
But that’s exactly where they are right now following a very routine result against Guatemala that was even more straightforward than the eventual 3-2 score suggests.
And Damien Applewhaite’s men must be licking their lips because the upcoming Venezuela tie, i.e. the promotion showdown, looks just as winnable.
I have to believe that neither Ricardo Rodriguez nor Luis Martinez is coming here to beat world No. 112 Darian King at a certain National Tennis Centre.
After all, only one opponent has done that in 15 tries, and Victor Estrella so happens to be a former top 50 player who is still ranked No. 86.
Oh, and Victor hasn’t beaten King since.
So it really comes down to that doubles rubber and the form of Haydn Lewis, who actually looked like the best player on the court on Saturday against Guatemala.
Call me rash, but outside of Haydn being unavailable for that tie I don’t see a scenario where Barbados doesn’t beat Venezuela. And in quick time, too.
• I keep saying this team only goes as far as Haydn Lewis takes it. Thankfully, he realises this too.
“Lefty Lew” all but acknowledged that by saying he’s ready to return to the tour and play full-time again.
Of course there’s always that itch athletes get to continue playing, but I believe Haydn sees that getting Barbados into the World Group is a truly realistic goal right now.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Lewis is the best player on a team that currently boasts a man just outside of the world’s top 100.
But he’s just as important as Darian King when you take into context the team dynamic.
If you don’t believe me just look at the Ecuador scenario two seasons ago when Barbados had to turn to Russell Moseley and Seanon Williams to play doubles and reverse singles respectively in a tie that still featured King.
Sure, Barbados needs the young guns to develop.
We just need the “old man” more right now.
• Speaking of developing young players, this Davis Cup squad may need that to happen quickly after all.
But not to replace Haydn.
I’m not sure if the powers that be have already come to this realisation, but if they’re honest with themselves then they know there will be a time that Darian won’t always be available for national duty.
And that may not even be by choice.
His management agency, CAA, must be smiling already at the marketing opportunities that are opening up for the lovable island boy on tour, and those won’t come if he’s missing out on making the main draws of Grand Slams and Masters 1000 events to play Davis Cup.
As Randy Walker wrote last week, the ITF just doesn’t do itself any favours by scheduling Davis Cup rounds a week after the Australian Open, the Miami Open and the US Open, respectively.
Considering the amount of money that is offered just to make those main draws, then which events do you think Darian will choose if he starts to suffer from burnout?
This was always going to be the stark reality facing Barbados tennis once King cracked the world’s top 100.
I just hope the team is willing to face it.
• At least we got a chance to see just how good King is up close.
It’s one thing to read about Darian going toe to toe with the likes of Gael Monfils and David Goffin, but it’s another thing altogether to watch a truly world-class player first-hand.
And he’s only getting better, evidenced by his vastly-improved first serve that caused all sort of problems for a certain set of Central Americans.
King was just so much better than everyone else that he never looked bothered or unsettled in any of his three matches – not even after he fell down 0-2 twice against Christopher Diaz.
This man really is a future top 60 player in the world.
But don’t take my word for it. Go see for yourself at the National Tennis Centre in September.
You may not get another chance to.