Jones squeaks past Ward
CONTROVERSY in the night’s final match between Victor “Earth” Ward and Curtis Jones marred what would have otherwise been a superb night of top-class tennis in the SJ Health And Bakery Limited Punches In Bunches road tennis competition on Tuesday.
And even though Jones, the hometown boy, eventually pulled through to win 21-16, 19-21, 21-19, there was neither a celebration from the winner nor the customary round of applause from spectators when victory was achieved just after 11 p.m. at the Belfield Court.
The drama unfolded with Jones leading 19-17 in the third and final set, after having watched his seemingly insurmountable 14-6 lead all but disappear due to Ward’s relentless play.
A forehand smash by Jones which most people, including Ward, thought had landed outside the court was adjudged to be in by the linesman.
The referee then called the score 20-17, only to “huff” the point after a protest by Ward.
A brief drizzle quickly followed, which caused a delay, during which spectators, who had converged onto the playing area, could be heard discussing the decision.
After a ten-minute break, Ward and Jones returned, with the former winning the next two points to lock the scores at 19-19.
But he committed two errors, first sending a forearm shot into the net and another just long, to give Jones the victory.
It proved an anticlimactic end to a pulsating match, with both players hugging at midcourt, before spectators once more invaded the court to resume their discussions about the earlier discrepancy.
Such a dramatic finish didn’t seem likely after Jones had wrapped up the first set and held a comfortable 12-5 lead in the second.
Ward then staged a remarkable comeback and helped on by some ill-advised shots from his opponent, won 11 of the next 15 points to tie the game at 16-16, before taking a two-point lead (18-16).
Helped on by some coaching advice from defending champion Julian “Michael Jackson” White, Jones battled back to lock the score at 19-19, but a brilliant cross-court forehand from Ward ended his resistance.
In the third set, once again Jones seemed in complete control, converting an early 4-1 lead into a 14-6 cushion.
But once again Ward responded, clawing his way back to 10-15 and then 17-13, before heartbreakingly falling just short.
In the other “A” class matchup, Marson Johnson booked his spot in the semi-finals with a hard fought 21-15, 19-21, 21-15 win over Chester “Boy Boy” Brewster.
Brewster started slowly, and at one point in the opening set seemed headed for a “sow,” as Johnson opened up a massive 15-6 lead.
Some good shot selection, coupled with some unforced errors from Johnson, helped Brewster to avoid that embarrassment.
In the second set, Brewster responded to the pressure by playing some magnificent forearm passing shots on both sides of the court, which helped to turn an initial
7-7 score into a 14-11 lead.
He then held his nerve to close out the set at 19, much to the delight of the home crowd.
The decisive set was neck and neck in the early stages, with a powerful forehand cross-court shot giving Johnson a slender 13-12 advantage.
However, Brewster would crumble from thereon, committing several unforced errors to help his opponent extend his lead to five (19-14), and subsequently take the match.
In today’s semi-finals, Jackson will take on Johnson, while Jones and Mark “Venom” Griffith will clash.
In the “B” class division, No. 1 seed Junior “Big Arms” Boucher will face Gary “Kojak” Thomas in one semi-final, and juniors Keon Murrell and Emar Edwards will face off in the other.
Boucher advanced after bringing the fairy tale run of veteran Deighton “Pa” Roach to an end with a 21-13, 17-21, 21-16 victory while Thomas rolled over Winston “Ballies” Padmore 21-17, 21-11.
Murrell overcame Darius “Barracus” Gaskin 20-22, 21-11, 22-20, and Edwards forced Trevor “Fox” King into submission after winning a marathon first set 21-17.