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Venom’s sting too hot for Jones

Randy Bennett

Venom’s sting too hot for Jones

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Mark “Venom” Griffith has proved that he is a titan.
Mixing solid defence with measured attack, while showcasing exceptional fitness levels, Griffith out-rallied and outlasted an exhausted Curtis Jones 21-18, 21-14, 19-21, 26-28, 21-10 in a thrilling five-setter to capture the inaugural United Insurance Clash of the Titans Road Tennis Competition at the Wildey Gymnasium on Saturday night.
In a match that was seemingly headed for an early finish after Griffith won the first two sets, a determined Jones treated the large crowd on hand as well as those tuned in to the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) website, where the event was streamed live, to some superb tennis as he battled back from the brink of a straight sets defeat to level the score at 2-2, before Griffith’s superior fitness decided the outcome.
The victory gave the 27-year-old road tennis star his second title of the year, having also won the Silver Hill Road Tennis Championships in July.
“Going into the game I believed that a three best of five series favoured me because I know Curtis has a fitness problem,” a relieved Griffith told NATION?SPORT shortly after his victory.
“After winning the first two sets I thought he would have given up, but he showed character, desire and determination.
“He came back and drew level, but in the end I had the edge over him and I must congratulate him for putting up such a good fight,” he insisted.
Griffith almost let a close opening set slip away from his grasp, committing three consecutive errors to give Jones a 17-14 lead.
But once he buckled down to his usual defensive style, Jones could seemingly find no chink in his opponent’s armour.
He overtook Jones at 19-18, before winning the next two points to close out the game.
The second set was a lot easier for Griffith, who never relinquished his early 13-3 lead, as Jones struggled with his choice selection.
He eventually settled down, opting to play the ball in Griffith’s forehand which won him several points as he clawed his way back to within four at 14-18.
However, his courageous fightback was halted by two surprising forehand winners by Griffith, who went on to take the game.
Looking down and out and trailing 15-18 in the third set, Jones needed to draw on all his years of experience to force a fourth game.
He won the next three points to draw level at 18-18, before Griffith’s long forehand gave him a one-point lead.
The two players then entertained the crowd, among them Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, to a breathtaking 34-ball rally, which Jones eventually won when Griffith sent another forehand long.
After winning the set, Jones could be seen breathing heavily and many wondered if he would be able to go the distance.
Griffith looked certain to wrap up the contest in the ensuing set, holding a commanding 18-14 lead, following two wild and desperate forehand shots by Jones.
But once again, Jones staged another recovery, saving six match points, before finally winning a marathon fourth set 28-26, much to the delight of the spectators.
The match then came to an anti-climatic end, with Jones clearly unable to play any longer.
With victory imminent, Griffith spared his compatriot the embarrassment of being sowed, purposely hitting four consecutive balls into the net from 20-6, before Jones duly threw in the towel.
“My energy level really went in the third game to be honest,” a clearly fatigued Jones explained.
“I just fought through the fourth game, but by the end of the third set I was really playing on fumes, and I just couldn’t make it in the end.”