Tennis King lives up to name
Today, MIDWEEK SPORT continues its Sports Personality Of The Month where the top Barbadian performer in any discipline for the past month is highlighted. Davis Cup player Darian King has been chosen for the month of February.
It was supposed to be his coming-out party.
A chance for Barbados to see if their King was truly worthy of the royal status local tennis so readily bestows upon him.
No more hiding out in Florida, or Canada, or Mexico, or wherever the circuit may take him where Bajans could only read of these fabled conquests.
An historic Davis Cup tie was due to be played on home soil, and now the man they said was destined to lead the country out of tennis’ wilderness would finally be up for public scrutiny.
But his might and the hype weren’t equals. It seldom ever is for these boyhood champions.
Only this time, the man far outstripped myth.
In two days of play, 19-year-old Darian King did more for his image than the previous two years of reports, effortlessly steering Barbados to an opening round triumph over Group II regulars Paraguay.
He had more than his fair share of help, of course, with fellow ATP-ranked pro Haydn Lewis having a hand in two victories, while the ever-boisterous home crowd was always at his side.
There’s a reason, though, King has been pegged as Barbados’ No 1. Now the rest of the country knows.
Paraguay are also now much the wiser, at least Juan Crosa is, after bearing witness while on the wrong end of a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 straight-sets annihilation in the opening singles encounter.
If February is indeed the month for love, Darian was the perfect testament to that in winning several service games at that score. And that’s supposed to be the weakest part of his game.
His forehand wasn’t even as good as advertised – it was times better, often dictating the points before ending them as well on numerous passing shots.
Crosscourt. Down the line. Inside-out. It didn’t matter because every one of those forehand winners befitted a man’s whose surname aptly implies a majestic status.
It wasn’t supposed to be this easy, though.
This was, of course, his Davis Cup home debut. The Paraguayans were ranked 34 spots better and the pressure of playing home was higher still.
And for a while, the weight of a nation seemingly was too much for his shoulders to bear, as the king looked anything but one while dropping his very first two service games.
If that stood as a chink in his armour, it counted as the lone blemish on an otherwise shining shield.
The boy who drew admiration for making the main draws of three Grand Slams – Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open – stood tall as a man and won the hearts of Barbadians while duly dismantling Crosa.
King rattled off four games in succession to win that first set and was almost as fast in wrapping up the following two sets.
He was even more severe in the ensuing doubles, pairing with Lewis for a deadly tag-team combo that finally put Paraguay down for the count after he initially had them on the ropes.
Ranked No. 731 in singles, 547 in doubles, Darian looked more like a world beater than a marginally rated pro who managed to bring down his original ranking of about 1 500.
The serve that once counted as a weakness never faced a single break point.
His forehand, which took a while to get going earlier, was revving from ball one – and just like that he and Lewis had themselves a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 success.
Barbados had an historic win to go along with their king, and the king got his validation.
But now Mexico awaits, and Darian will have to confirm his status all over again.
He might not be able to match the hype this time around – but then again, boyhood champs seldom ever do.