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White’s got the real venom!

Randy Bennett

White’s got the real venom!

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There’s no doubt now about who is the No. 1 road tennis player in Barbados.
Julian “Michael Jackson” White silenced all of the critics with a superb performance Sunday night on his way to capturing his second successive SJ Health and Bakery Limited Punches in Bunches road tennis title.
Before a large crowd at the Belfield court, which included parliamentary representative for the area, James Paul, White fought back valiantly after losing the first set to repel a spirited Mark “Venom” Griffith, 17-21, 21-17, 21-16 to claim the $1 000 first place prize, along with a Citizens watch and trophy.
Earlier, in a lopsided “B” class final, 15-year-old Keon Murrell dominated Junior “Big Arms” Boucher, 21-16, 21-9 on his way to being crowned champion.
He walked away with $700, a Citizens watch and a trophy.
The “A” class clash lived up to expectations, featuring long rallies, incredible shots and countless lead changes in just over an hour of top class play.
In the end, Griffith’s venom was just no match against White’s resilience.
“Only last night [Saturday], it was mentioned to me that if I lost to ‘Venom’ tonight [Sunday], he could become the No. 1 player in the island,” White told NATIONSPORT shortly after capturing his 37th ‘‘A” class title.
“But I just tried to put that behind me and concentrate on what I do best, and that is defending.”
But even in victory, a humble White acknowledged that it was just a matter of time before Griffith overtook him as the island’s top ranked player.
“Without a doubt, you can see that he is going to be a really good player. And without a doubt, this gentleman is going to be the No. 1 player sooner or later,” he insisted.
White said he also owed the victory to his son Ramario, who assured him that once he went out there and defended well, he would come away victorious.
The result was sweet revenge for White, who was defeated by Griffith in the final of the Silver Hill Road Tennis Championships earlier this year.
But playing on his home court where he has never lost a final, White was assertive against a nervous looking Griffith in the first set, turning a 5-5 scoreline into a 10-5 lead, thanks mainly to some unforced errors by his opponent.
A brilliant cross court forearm winner from Griffith, followed by an astounding rally in which he unbelievably retrieved a ball which looked to have been powered past him, helped him close that gap and he eventually locked the score 10-10.
A couple of unforced errors by White gave Griffith a 14-11 advantage, but the defending champion fought back, a classy backhand shot drawing him level at 16-16.
He only won one more point though, as Griffith took the opening set much to the delight of his fans.
In the second set, White’s early 4-0 lead was quickly erased by a confident looking Griffith, as another forearm winner brought him within one (7-8).
Sensing a chance for victory, a seemingly overconfident Griffith would allow White to take control of the set, choosing to attack rather than to play his natural defensive game.
This not only led to several unforced errors, but also a 16-11 lead for his opponent.
And despite clawing back to get within one (17-16), he just couldn’t find the gear to overtake his opponent, as White closed out the set in style with a thunderous forehand shot.
The two were almost inseparable in the early stages of the third and decisive set, before White’s backhand into the net gave Griffith an 8-6 advantage.
But in a sudden and unexpected twist, the 45-year-old veteran rattled off nine straight unanswered points to create a 15-8 cushion over his faltering opponent.
Griffith ended his drought on the next point, but White’s solid defensive play never allowed him back into the game.
He did manage to cut the lead to three (18-15), but White won the next two points, with Griffith’s attempted forehand shot going long to give White the victory.
“After winning the first set, I got a bit overconfident and lost my composure,” an obviously disappointed Griffith admitted after the match.
“My attacking game wasn’t on tonight, so I had to stick to defending. But my hat goes off to ‘Jackson’, he played extremely well tonight.”

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