It will be youth versus experience and Grand Bahama vs New Providence when rising teenager Denali Nottage faces former champion Kevin Major Jr in the men’s final of the 2022 Giorgio Baldacci Open Nationals.
The tournament, hosted by the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association, will come to a close today at the National Tennis Centre when the women’s champions will be decided as well in a rematch of last year’s finals between champion Sydney Clarke and runners-up Elana Mackey.
In what was the longest matched played so far during the week, Nottage survived a grueling three setter against fellow Grand Bahamian Rodney Carey in a marathon affair, while Major Jr got by fellow veteran Davis Cup player and captain Marvin Rolle in two sets in Wednesday’s semifinals.
The winner of the men’s title will automatically earn a spot on the national team that will represent the Bahamas at the Davis Cup competition and the women’s winner will book her ticket to the Billie Jean King Cup.
The BLTA has not announced as yet how the other spots on the teams will be determined, but it’s expected that another qualifying tournament will take place next year before the teams travel.
Nottage in three
over Carey Jr
Nottage, who made his debut in the tournament with an exit in the quarterfinals, breathed a sigh of relief when he dropped an ace to hold serve and secure the game, set and match, much to the applauds of the crowd that endured almost three hours of an exciting match.
In the end, Nottage had just prevailed with a 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-5 win over an equally exhausted Carey as both players noted how glad they didn’t have to battle through another tie breaker.
“This one was one. I knew I was facing one of the toughest players in the Bahamas in Rodney Carey,” said Nottage, who will celebrate his 19th birthday on Saturday. “I just had to fight until the end. “The main goal was to hold serve. There was a couple of times when I was down love-30 (0-30), but I just had to hold serve.”
Holding serve was a major problem for both players, especially at the end of the first two sets. Nottage broke Carey Jr to level the score and force the tie breaker.
Then in the second set, Carey Jr returned the favour as he broke Nottage, but this time he pushed the match to the decisive third set.
In the final set, Nottage had taken a 3-1 up a break, but Carey Jr got the break back for a 4-4 tie. Carey Jr held serve on an ace for a 5-4 lead, but Nottage withstood the challenge and broke again for a 6-5 lead and then completed the match with the ace as he held serve.
“This year, I’m in the final, so it’s an improvement,” said Nottage, who is currently enrolled at the Bill Adams Tennis Academy in Pembroke Pines, Florida, after he graduated from St George’s High School. “This year, I’m a little more mature, so I was looking forward to playing the tournament.”
For Carey Jr, who made his return after a little hiatus from the game, said he thought they both played very well. He said he was disappointed in his performance because he blew the opportunity to win the first two sets.
“Having to go three sets, I knew it was going to be tough,” Carey Jr insisted. “I did good to stay in there to take it to the distance, so I’m happy with that. But I’m not too upset about it.”
Carey Jr, 30, said he’s happy to see Nottage playing at such a high level and his father Daniel Nottage, who coached many of the players in Grand Bahama, was just as elated watching on the sidelines.
With just a day to let it sink in that he’s into the final, Nottage said the only thing he wants to do now is “get some rest,” because it’s not going to be easy against Major Jr, so “I just have to come out fighting again.”
Major Jr sweeps
Even though he admitted that Major Jr would come out victorious the day before in his quarterfinal victory, Rolle still came out and provided a stiff challenge, even if it was just for one set.
Major Jr, the younger of the two competitors, pulled off a 6-4, 6-1 win, but he gave a lot of credit to Rolle.
“Playing Marvin is always tricky. He’s a nice guy, but he always has blood in his eyes, so you always have to be careful,” Major Jr said.
“So, I was ready for a fight, and I got a fight.
“I just think he pulled back off the gas because to maintain that world-class level is not that easy and that was how I was able to take control of the match.”
Major Jr, the tournament 2019 winner over Baker Newman, said he expected to reach the final because he came home well prepared from his training in Tampa, Florida.
“I’m looking forward to playing Davis Cup next year and all of the tournaments I can get into,” Major Jr said.
“I love playing other people than Bahamians. I know what I can do against Bahamians. I’m ready to take on the world.”
Rolle, the savvy 39-year-old, said he took the match to the 27-year-old Major Jr up to the ninth game and then it just slipped away from him.
“Kevin is tough. That’s why he’s considered one of the best players we have right now,” Rolle said. “Between him and Justin Roberts, is our best player, so it was a good win for him.”
Rolle said while he would have preferred to be on the other side of the draw so that he could have ended up possibly facing Major Jr in the final and not the semifinals, he will look forward to the next trials to try and secure his spot on another Davis Cup team.