By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
FRESH off his first International Tennis Federation men's doubles and singles titles in a span of one week, Justin Roberts returned home for a brief break before he heads out today to represent the Bahamas at the Pan American Games.
During his stay, Roberts hosted a one-day clinic at the National Tennis Centre for junior players in the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association.
Among those who participated were Jasmine Thompson, Michael Major Jr, Miguel Smith, Sydney Clarke, Sarai Clarke, Kaylee Kanuka and Bonny Xavier.
The 2-3 hour session, according to Roberts, was a lot of fun.
"I remember when I was hitting the ball with Jason Taylor and Marvin Rolle and all these guys, so to really put something on for them was really special," Roberts said. "It was a good feeling. I enjoy it."
Roberts, 22, said his accomplishments in Mexico were as a result of his hard work and persistence over the past year and-a-half coming back from his wrist injury.
"It was a good feeling," said Roberts about winning his first singles title on Sunday, a week after he won the doubles title with Jody Maginley from Antigua and Barbuda. "I had a lot of comeback wins, a lot of three and a half matches, so it was a big relief, a lot of joy. It was unbelievable.
He picked up his first singles title coming out of the qualifying round where he had to play two matches in one day to get into the main draw.
"I played seven matches in seven days in the heat in Mexico," he recalled. "The guy I played was expected to win, but a lot of things just worked in my favour. I'm just glad that I got the win."
The week before winning his singles title, Roberts and Maginley pulled off their first doubles crown. They have been playing together since they were junior players. So it was gratifying to finally get their first one at the pro ranks.
"He's my boy. I've been playing with him since I was 12-13. We have a good chemistry on the court," Roberts said. "We finally won a championship over there. It was disappointing that we had two first-round losses, but to win a title with him was good for sure."
Major Jr, one of the rising young male players, said he enjoyed being a part of the camp. "I felt he was able to help me with my serve. He told me some things to do that I didn't know," he said. "All around, I think he's a good person and a good role model for me."
Having viewed Roberts' performances in Mexico, Major Jr said he left him impressed. "I feel good because he fought," Major Jr noted. "From the scores that I saw, it showed that he never gave up and he taught us to go out there and stick with it until the end of the match."
Once he can implement some of the things he was instructed by Roberts, Major Jr said he can definitely improve his game.
Sydney Clarke, who participated in the clinic with her younger sister Sarai, thanked Roberts for taking the time out to share his knowledge with them. "It's a great opportunity to be a part of this camp. It was wonderful for him to work with me. I really appreciate it. I felt I learned a lot today and it was great to work out with him. It was very good," said Clarke, the Bahamas' top female junior player.
If there was anything that she could apply to her game, it was making the adjustment to the weather conditions with her footwork. "I realised that you can't slack off, you have to always keep moving your feet," she pointed out. "When you are in trouble, you could always rely on your feet, so that was something that I learned today."
Having watched Roberts achieve his double dose of victories in Mexico, Roberts said she was very impressed because he was out there trying to keep the Bahamas on the map in the sport.
"I was very excited for him and I hope that he continues to do very well because I'm looking up to him," she pointed out. "I'm looking to one day be just like him, playing and winning on the pro circuit."
BLTA president Darnette Weir was on hand to view the clinic. "It's always nice to have players giving back to associations and Justin's appearance here is coming off the heels of his victory in singles after he won in doubles," said Weir about Roberts' dual performance that took place in two separate M15 Cancun tennis tournaments in Mexico.
"Even before he played those matches in Mexico, he had agreed to do these clinics, so it was great timing. And it's being done just before he goes off to represent the Bahamas at the Pan American Games, so it's great timing."
Roberts is scheduled to leave town today along with Baker Newman and coach Derron Donaldson for the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, July 26 to August 11.
"My expectations are that the team does its best. Whether they come out with a gold, silver or bronze or whatever, once both players Baker and Justin do their best, that's all we could ask for."
Roberts said it will be an honour for him to represent the Bahamas at the Pan Am Games. "It's been a goal of mine for a long time," said Roberts, who was hoping to do so at the Davis Cup level, but was denied a spot because he didn't play in the BLTA's Giorgio Baldacci open in December.
"So to be a part of this is something special for me."
He's hoping his success in Mexico will propel him in Peru next week. "I just have confidence that I can go there and cause some damage," Roberts said. "There's a lot of good players (participating), but we have a good chance. I think we have some really good players, so we are going to go out there and do some good things over there."
After he's done with the Pan Ams, Roberts intends to play a few more pro tournaments before he returns to school to complete his final semester so that he can complete his studies at Arizona State University.
By January, he expects to hit the pro circuit full time.