The Silver?Hill?Road Tennis Championship will crown a new king next Tuesday.
That is because seemingly invincible two-time monarch Mark “Venom” Griffith was smashed 21-18, 22-20 by thrilling attacker Antonio “Lil Man” Daniel in front of over 1 500 spectators at the Silver Hill courts on Friday night.
Griffith took the crown in 2012 with a win over Victor “Earth” Ward and he repeated last year by turning away Barbados’ No. 1 player Julian “Michael Jackson” White, inclusive of a “sow”.
The crowd gathered from early and when the highly anticipated clash began, spectators were standing or sitting three and four deep ringing the battle arena.
Both players showed their intentions from early. From ball one, Daniel whipped the crowd into a frenzy by launching an early 5-2 lead, spiced with some breathtaking smashes and his trademark poses which caused many fans to run onto the court. However, defence master Griffith countered with his resilience and uncanny ability to touch and return even some seemingly sure winners.
With fans applauding every shot or counter, Griffith locked the scores at seven. That pattern continued up to 17 with Griffith battling to return the ball without height to neutralise Daniel’s whipping smashes.
Ironically, Daniel also attempted a number of drop shots which he muffed or against which the swift Griffith sped into the court and crunched winners. On the other hand, Griffith’s cross court drags, which would have beaten a lesser opponent, were whipped across court with disdain by Daniel.
All of that excitement was heightened, unfortunately, by a number of officiating errors. To the credit of the combatants they accepted the decisions and continued, with Daniel taking the first game.
The fight seemed to be heading for an early finish when Daniel roared to 9-2 in the second game before Griffith battled back to 8-9. Daniel regained the advantage when his lone “injection” proved potent, beating Griffith and leaving him on all fours to move to 12-8.
That play spurred Griffith to fight back to 12-13 and then lock the scores from 15 up to 19, at which stage Daniel moved to 20-19 and then smashed down the line to drop his racquet and hug his adviser, road tennis legend Deighton “Pa” Roach. However, the officials did not agree on where the ball had landed so the point was replayed to quell the early celebrations.
After Griffith deuced the game, Daniel regained game and match point with a sizzler through the forehand. Griffith then hit his next shot wide to surrender his Silver Hill crown. The deposed king indicated that there was nothing he could have done to change the results.
“Antonio was the better player and I do not believe that I could have done anything different to stop him tonight,” said Griffith.
Daniel not only won hundreds of new fans with his display but he pleased them immensely.
“A lot of people have been meeting me and begging me to come back and lift the attacking game in road tennis and I can assure you that Antonio Daniel is back in road tennis for good.”
Tonight, Daniel will meet Gary “Kojak” Thomas in the semi-finals while White will play Adrian “Dan” Skeete in the other semi as they seek a place in the final, where $2 000 is at stake.
Thomas had defeated Dave Arrendell 21-9, 21-18 while Skeete moved past Jeffrey “Bing Crosby” 21-10, 21-14. White humiliated former Banks champion Charles “McEnroe” Griffith 21-7, 21-2.
The Under-21 action got under way with the confident Dario Hinds upsetting islandwide champion Darius “Baraccus” Gaskin 21-15, 21-13. Emar Edwards calmly halted Kyle King 21-12, 22-20 while Shawn Spencer scored a default win over Deshawn Sylvanus.
In the B Class, 12-year-old Nicholas “Nik-Nik” Ellis beat former national volleyballer Nicholas Mathias 21-18, 21-14. Adrian Walker defeated Anthony Forde 21-14, 21-16; Roger Daniel pipped Desmond “Hatcher” Wooding 22-24, 21-10, 25-23 while Damien Harewood topped Pierre Nurse 21-14, 21-18.