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Tennis Hall Of Fame: 12 To Be Inducted At Ball

By BRENT STUBBS Senior Sports Reporter bstubbs@tribunemedia.net This weekend will be a significant one for women's tennis in the Bahamas. The second Bahamas Open Women's tennis tourney, featuring some of the top players around the world, is all set to begin at the National Tennis Centre. But as a prelude to the competition on the court, organiser Ty Olander will pay tribute to a number of Bahamians in the Bahamas Open Ball scheduled to be held at the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort on Saturday night. During the night, 12 Bahamians, inclusive of Roger Smith, Kit Spencer, Kim O'Kelley, Leo Rolle, John Antonas, Giogio Baldacci, Sterling Cooke, Jane Wiberg, Sandra Miller, Barrie Farringon, Edith Powell and Vickie Knowles-Andrews, are all expected to be inducted into the Bahamas Tennis Hall of Fame. For two of the inductees, the honour is one that they hope to cherish. "What an honour. I know they have the International Tennis Hall of Fame but to be a part of a select few of Bahamians, who have been competitors and supported all aspects of the sport here, is very gratifying," O'Kelley said. "I am very appreciative and I'm truly humbled at being nominated. Tennis has always been a major part of my life. Many don't understand it, but I do live it." Noted Knowles-Andrews: "I feel extremely honoured and humbled to be one of the inductees." Additionally, Knowles, Powell, Lady Edith Powell and Lady Margaret Symonette will all have their names placed on one of the championship or runners-up trophies that will be presented to the winners and runners-up in doubles at the end of the tournament. "It is exciting to know that one of the lady champions will be in possession of a trophy bearing my name," Knowles-Andrews said. When asked how they felt about the Women's Open returning for another year, O'Kelley said: "I think it's great. I was actually contemplating the possibility of getting in shape for next year to try my luck. Who knows. I'm a believer in impossibilities." O'Kelley, who has hung up her playing shoes after an impressive career on the local scene, said if she had to go back to her playing days and the tournament was held then, she doesn't think she would have done too well. "But I think I'm hitting a better ball right now. I'm playing a lot smarter but, unfortunately, I'm not as fit as I was back then." Instead, O'Kelley said she's glad that the tournament is in the Bahamas because it gives local Bahamian players, including her daughter Kerrie Cartwright (following in her footsteps) the opportunity to strive for something in the future. "Kerrie would have loved to have been entered but she has played her quota of professional tournaments since there are restrictions on how many a college player can play in," she said. "She hasn't lost a match yet in her college matches for the year. So I think her confidence would have been very high for this tournament. Maybe next year she will get the opportunity to come home and compete." While she hasn't performed in as many tournaments as O'Kelley on the local scene, Knowles-Andrews has an impeccable contribution as a coach and administrator. Like O'Kelley, she is elated to see the Bahamas playing host to such a prestigious tournament. "It is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to see first-class tennis and especially as an inspiration for our junior players," she said. When asked if she could turn back the hands of time to see how she would fare, Knowles-Andrews noted: "I could probably have served and volleyed my way to winning a couple of sets but we didn't hit the ball as hard as the current players so I think I would have come out on the losing end of most matches." However, Knowles-Andrews is eager to see how the younger Bahamians compete with the international players. "I believe the organisers are going to give some of the younger players the opportunity to compete, particularly our No.1 girl, Simone Pratt, who I think has a most promising future." Although the tournament is for women, Knowles-Andrews added that she wouldn't mind seeing a men's segment included, hopefully before her son Mark Knowles retires from the pro tour. "I understand how much organisation and funds are required to host such events," she said. The Bahamas Open is slated to begin with the qualifying round 9am Saturday. Players will be vying for six spots to get into the main draw that is scheduled to begin Monday. But on Sunday as a part of the opening ceremonies, there will be an historic legendary doubles match between four of the greatest players of all time - Martina Navratilova, Monica Seles, Mary Joe Fernandez and Zina Garrison - she replaced Jennifer Capriati who is out due to an arm injury.

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