By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association president Derron Donaldson said he was so impressed with the performance of the Fed Cup team that he was taking player/captain Larikah Russell, Simone Pratt, Kerrie Cartwright and Danielle Thompson in a limousine ride to dinner.
The treat was a part of the celebrations on tap for the team on their return home yesterday from El Salvador where they won pool B in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas American Group II over the weekend. By virtue of their tremendous historic performance, the Bahamas has finally been promoted to Zone One for 2014.
“We’re going to treat them,” said Donaldson, who intends to take the team on a courtesy call to both the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Bahamas Olympic Committee, both of whom were on hand to greet the players as they arrived at the Lynden Pindling International Airport.
Donaldson, however, is hoping that the team will not rest on their laurels, but start thinking about 2014.
“They’re going to take two days off, then they will start preparing. So they need funding to start travelling and training,” he said. “That’s the avenue that we have to go. We have to push hard.”
The four-day tournament, played in Santa Tecla, was a hard-fought one for the team.
Going into the final match against the Dominican Republic in a battle of two undefeated teams, the Bahamas’ fate rested on the shoulders of Russell and Cartwright in the pivotal doubles after Cartwright won her singles and Pratt dropped her match to even the series at 1-1.
“I live for those moments,” said Russell about the clincher. “I’m just so proud of her for sticking in there. I was looking at her and she looked like what we’re going to do and I said, Kerrie, don’t worry about it, I’m going to take us all the way. But I’m proud of her and I’m proud of my team.”
Although she has played on numerous Fed Cup teams in the past, Russell said it was the first time for her as the player/captain and she couldn’t ask for a better crew to work with.
“They gave me a hard time a little bit, but they were respectful and they did pretty good,” she said.
Cartwright, playing at the No.2 seed, said she was grateful to be a part of the team. “We had such a good time on and off the court. We enjoyed ourselves. We had such a good time,” she said. “I hope we can always travel like this. This was a good experience.”
Pratt, the top seed, said she was just as thrilled to be a member of the team.
“Without them, we would not have been successful,” she said. “It was a good experience. I enjoyed it and hopefully we can be just as successful next year.”
As the rookie on the team, Thompson said it was an “awesome experience” and she was just as delighted to have been able to accomplish their mission.
Timothy Munnings, the director of sports in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, said he was thrilled to have been afforded the opportunity to welcome the team home.
“Obviously, we have done something very magnificent,” he said. “Although you were so far away, we were cheering and watching your performances and we’re so proud that we can be here to celebrate the team, which is made up of experience and youth.”
Cora Hepburn, the first female to be elected as a vice president of the BOC, said the performance was fantastic. “Just keep up the level of play,” she told the players.
And BOC president Wellington Miller said as sports is their business, when the athletes do well in sports, the business gets better for the Bahamas.
“We did it,” he said.
Miller said he hopes that the players will not only prepare for the American Zone One next year, but also the Central American and Caribbean Games, the Pan American Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Youth Olympics, all of which falls under BOC jurisdiction.
“Let’s get ready to roll and let’s take sports to where it ought to be in the Bahamas,” he stated.