Bahamians fall inqualifyingfor Bahamas Open
The team of Larikah Russell and Nikita Fountain will be the flag bearers for The Bahamas at the historic Bahamas Open, now that the trio which played in the qualifying rounds for spots in the singles main draw, have all been eliminated.
Russell and Fountain are one of three wildcard teams selected to compete in the doubles competition. The two remaining wildcard slots were filled by Jamie Hampton and Melanie Oudin of United States of America, and Wan-Ting Liu and Sheng-Nan Sun of China. Team Bahamas will open up against Sarah Borwell and Liga Dekmeijere at the tournament, which is being played at the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association’s(BLTA)National Tennis Centre.
This will serve as a second opportunity for Russell, who was one of the three local players who were eliminated from play on Saturday. Kerrie Cartwright and Simone Pratt completed the trio playing singles for The Bahamas.
Cartwright was the first to go down, losing to Pila Suomalainen of Finland, 6-1 and 6-1. Both Pratt and Russell received a first-round bye. Pratt took to the court against Ukraine’s Olga Savchuk, and lost 6-2 and 6-0. Russell’s match was against Great Britain’s Heather Watson, the fourth seeded player in the qualifier. Watson handed Russell a loss, 6-0 and 6-2, and then moved on to capture one of the four spots in the main draw. Both she and Savchuk secured spots in the main draw.
Watson is scheduled to play the tournament’s number six seed Johanna Larsson of Sweden while Savchuk and Anastasia Rodionova will battle it out for a chance of winning the tournament’s$100,000 top prize. The tournament is sanctioned internationally by the International Tennis Federation(ITF)and the Women’s Tennis Association(WTA). The BLTA has also given its stamp of approval.
Tournament Chairman Ty Olander feels that tournament is off to a great start. He said that the representatives from the WTA and the ITF are in town to observe the tournament, and so far, they appear to be very pleased.
“We got it started, we did it,”said Olander.”The first match of the tournament we had our very own Bahamian Kerrie playing. She and all of the other Bahamians lost today, which was unfortunate because I thought that at least one of them was going to prevail, but the caliber of the players in this tournament is so high that we knew that they were going to have big challenges ahead of them.
“What has happened now, the WTA and the ITF are all coming here because they want to know why we had so many persons, who are highly ranked in the world, interested in coming here to play, and why we were able to attract such a strong field. When you look at the main draw, all the players are ranked in the top 100 or thereabout. That is unprecedented in the world. As a matter of fact, the number 14 player in the world, her people called saying that they wanted to come down here and the ITF supervisor had to go to the rule book to find out whether or not she can actually come because anyone with that good of a ranking, basically cannot play in an ITF tournament of this grading. However, the mere fact is, we put on this international tournament here in The Bahamas to pull players, and we see that caliber of players wanting to come and compete right here. They are also looking at the possibility of making The Bahamas a regular stop on the tour, so rather than having to wait a couple of months and listen to reviews and other things, they wanted to come down themselves and see exactly why the players made this decision. We are very excited about that.”
Olander is hoping to add a men’s draw to the tournament if The Bahamas is given a stamp of approval. The week-long tournament will continue at the National Tennis Centre located in the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre. The tournament is hosting top female players such as Petra Kvitova, Tsvetana Pironkova and Timea Bacsinszky. Over in the doubles draw, Natalie Grandin and Vladimira Uhlirova is the top seeded team. Edina Gallovits-Hall and Monica Niculescu are seeded number two.