Old rivals meet
WHILE THE MUCH-HYPED “A” Class matches proved somewhat of a disappointment, the “B” Class competitors stole the show when the semi-finals of the SJ Health and Bakery Limited Punches In Bunches Road Tennis Competition were played on Thursday night at the Belfield court.
In the “A” class, Julian “Michael Jackson” White proved that he was still a force to be reckoned with, when he disdainfully dismissed Marson Johnson 21-11, 21-7 in a lopsided contest to cruise into tomorrow’s finals.
There, he will renew the rivalry with Mark “Venom” Griffith who had little worries while waltzing past Curtis Jones 21-14, 21-18.
Earlier, in the game of the night, No. 1 seed Junior “Big Arms” Boucher snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Gary “Kojak” Thomas to win 23-21, 13-21, 21-19.
He advanced to the “B” class final where he will play teenager Keon Murrell who stopped fellow junior Emar Edwards 21-13, 21-14.
Not only did the dreadlocked Boucher watch a comfortable 8-0 lead in the first set disappear, he also found himself trailing 18-19, and 19-20.
And with Thomas needing just one point to close out the set, he inexplicably failed to put away a straightforward smash at the net with his opponent at his mercy.
Instead, his shot which was directed at Boucher, was returned, and Thomas eventually put his backhand return into the net.
As if that wasn’t bad enough for Thomas, after winning the second game and leading 19-16 in the third, he failed to win another point, his backhand shot into the net, completing Boucher’s heroic comeback.
It was an impressive display by the 15-year-old Murrell, a fourth form student at The Lester Vaughan School, who mixed solid defence with measured aggression, which regularly earned applause from the large crowd on hand.
Meanwhile, it will be a much anticipated match-up between Griffith and White.
Griffith’s crushing defeat of White in the Youth Development Programme Silver Hill Road Tennis Championships in July led to talk that White’s reign as the best road tennis player on the island had come to an end.
That talk only heightened when White also lost to Anthony “Ears” Mitchell in the finals of the Last Man Standing shotgun tournament last month.
But after a shaky start in the opening rounds, the defending champion was at his clinical best against Johnson.
It wasn’t that Johnson played poorly. Against any other player, he would have proved a formidable opponent. On this night, though, he was simply outclassed, as White turned a close 6-6 score early on, to a 14-6 rout.
He was a picture of form, and showed exactly how he got the nickname “Michael Jackson”, with nimble footwork, while hitting the ball crisply on both sides of the court with the utmost ease.
Johnson was lucky to escape a “sow” in that first game after the score had progressed to 19-9, but a blistering forehand down the line saw him reach double figures.
He wasn’t so lucky in the ensuing set though, as White turned a 14-5 cushion into a 21-7 whipping, ending the game in style with a powerful cross-court forehand.
Griffith, who turned 28 on Wednesday, then gave himself a belated birthday gift by defeating Jones in straight sets.
Jones led in the opening exchanges, with a brilliant forehand cross-court smash giving him a 10-7 lead.
However, Griffith took command soon after, tying the scores at 10-10, before winning the next four points.
Jones clawed back to lock the scores at 14-14, but he wouldn’t win another point as his opponent romped to victory.
Once again, Jones commanded the game early on, rushing to a 4-0 lead on the back of some aggressive forehand smashes.
That was short-lived, as Griffith caught him at 5-5, on his way to opening a seven point advantage (17-10).
Jones fought back well to get within one (16-17), but in the end, it wasn’t enough to prevent a straight sets defeat.