Wednesday, Oct 23, 2019
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Refreshing outlook for Bahamian tennis

Emboldened by the significant title achievement of the junior national team at the pre-qualifying tournament for the North, Central American and Caribbean Region, the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association’s (BLTA) President has a refreshing outlook for the sport.

Steven Turnquest has predicted that Bahamian tennis will return to having that strong presence in regional and international play inclusive of the prestigious Davis Cup within about two years.

His comments came on the heels of the magnificent showing of Kevin Major Jr., Christian Cargill and Shaquille Taylor. They captured the pre-qualifying championship in El Salvador and no doubt are already focused on the next step, the qualifying tournament for North, Central American and the Caribbean, scheduled for Merida, Mexico, on the April 30 weekend.

Turnquest praised the three age 16-18 talents.

“I’m very proud of them. They are the top three in the country in the 16-18 age bracket and we have high hopes for them. They were fantastic at the pre-qualifying event and I expect them to hold their own when they play in about another month in Mexico. I can say that the potential they have demonstrated speaks volumes for the future of tennis in The Bahamas,” said Turnquest.

While acknowledging that the status of the country dipped generally during the last decade, the BLTA chief says the play of Major Jr., Cargill and Taylor is indicative of The Bahamas showing that it has come a long way and is ready to get to the next level.

“Overall, tennis in The Bahamas is at a progressive stage and in another year or two we will elevate ourselves and be back up there,” said Turnquest.

That top level is where Roger Smith and Mark Knowles excelled.

It is true though that players like young Cargill, Major Jr. and Taylor have the national tennis program looking up. Their emergence is complimented by Larikah Russell and Nikita Fountain leading the way on the female side. They won a doubles gold medal at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games and Russell added a bronze medal in singles.

Indeed the tennis scene is looking quite promising.

There have been two eras of sustained Bahamian excellence in team tennis. In the 1960s and 1970s, Leo Rolle and John Antonas were the driving forces behind the Bahamian surge to the top echelon of Caribbean tennis with their Brandon Cup successes.

As aforementioned, Smith and Knowles took the nation to its loftiest height in Davis Cup play. Knowles of course has had a personal career of legendary proportions in professional doubles tennis action. He has four grand slam titles (French, U.S. and Australian men’s doubles and Wimbledon mixed doubles).

Perhaps from this latest group of outstanding Bahamian players will come someone or several who will match the successes of Knowles. Turnquest is satisfied with the progress. In tennis, The Bahamas is certainly on the rise.

(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at frobertsturrup@gmail.com)

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