By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THE Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association’s annual Giorgio Baldacci Open Challenge Tennis Tournament at the National Tennis Centre in December maybe in limbo, but it won’t have any effect on the selection of the men’s and women’s Davis and Fed Cup teams respectively.
BLTA president Perry Newton said in the present state of the circumstances with all local sporting activities on a hold as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, if conditions loosen and they can hold the event, it would be a watered-down version.
But with the Davis Cup and the Fed Cup, now known as the Billie Jean King Cup, postponed this year until next year, Newton said they will more than likely keep both teams selected from last year’s Giorgio Baldacci Open Challenge Tennis Tournament in place.
“Right now, we can’t have any competitive tournaments so based on when and if we get the okay to go ahead with sports this year, it would be hard to pull off the tournament the way we normally host it,” Newton said.
“In speaking with some of the players, it’s a logistical nightmare trying to get flights to come home from wherever they are in the United States getting the COVID-19 visa and negative tests that they have to secure.
“So it’s going to be very difficult to get the players home at the last minute to compete in the tournament.
“So if we do have one, it might be more of an open tournament, rather than one where the significance of securing their standings for selection to our national teams.”
At the conclusion of last year’s Giorgio Baldacci Open Challenge, the BLTA selected champion Kevin Major and runner up Baker Newman to the Davis Cup team.
Justin Roberts was automatically selected to the team by having the top International Tennis Federation ranking, while player/captain Marvin Rolle earned the final spot in the playoffs in February.
The Bahamas is ranked at No. 119 in the world and is waiting on the venue and date for next year’s tournament.
On the Billie Jean King Cup for women, Kerrie Cartwright emerged as the champion and was joined on the team by Sydney Clarke and Grand Bahamian Simone Pratt.
Grand Bahamian Larikah Russell, a versatile athlete who was on the team in the past as a player and captain, emerged as the winner of the trials this year and was selected to complete the fourth and final spot on the team.
The Bahamas is expected to travel to Panama City to play in the Group II round robin tournament against Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Panama and Uruguay.
The seven teams are expected to be split into segments with the winners of each pool going into a playoff to determine which nation will advance to Americas Group One.
“We still haven’t discussed it yet with the board, but more than likely, we will keep the same teams in place because the tie they were scheduled to play this year has been postponed to next year,” Newton said. “So we’re still waiting on the ITF to give us further information for the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup. As soon as we get that information, we will make a better decision.”
Newton is encouraging the team players to stay in shape as best as they can and, if they have an opportunity, participate in some tournaments so that they can be sharp on their game.
“We know something is going to happen, but we just don’t know when,” said Newton about the return of sports in the country. “We just don’t want to create a situation where we plan an event and everybody can’t come here because of travel restrictions.
“If and when we get permission, we will have some tournaments, even if it’s just island by island, so that the players will have an opportunity to develop their game.”
As for his new role as president of the BLTA, the former public relations officer said it has been a challenge in the COVID-19 environment, but he and his members are encouraged to be steadfast.
“There’s no growth without any adversities,” he stressed. “We know the biggest setback is COVID- 19, but we are trying to be active. We just had an official clinic so we realise that we can be active in this COVID-19 era.”