Bahamian female players trying to stay sharp

Despite having no new date for their Americas Zone Group II Fed Cup Tournament as yet, Team Bahamas is staying active, preparing their minds and bodies for possible play anytime this year.

The quartet of Kerrie Cartwright, Sydney Clarke, Simone Pratt and Larikah Russell were initially set to compete at the Centro de Alto Rendimiento Fred Maduro in Panama City, Panama, in June. However, due to the presence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the disruption in sports worldwide, that tournament has been postponed indefinitely.

The young ladies are the cream of the crop in female tennis in The Bahamas, and were looking forward to the challenge of advancing The Bahamas as a nation in tennis in this region. The Bahamas advanced to the final in group two play a year ago, but lost to the host nation, Peru, and consequently missed out on a chance to be promoted to the Americas Zone Group I for 2020. The Bahamas won its pool last year, sporting a 2-0 win-loss record before falling to Peru in the final.

Veteran of the squad, player/captain Russell, said she’s been doing her best to stay active, as well as getting closer to God and strengthening family ties. Russell, 35, hails from Grand Bahama.

“In the midst of this perplexity, it is so easy to take a backseat and go in vacation mode due to everyday life coming to a standstill; therefore, as athletes, it is supremely important to stay highly motivated with our physical fitness and mental toughness,” she said. “I am taking advantage of this time to strengthen my faith in God and spend more quality time with my family and friends here in Grand Bahama. As we navigate these uncharted waters, I recommend that we focus on what we can do and make the best out of whatever situation we are in.”

National Champion and The Bahamas’ top female player, Cartwright, 28, simply said you don’t have to get ready if you stay ready. She said she has remained active and will be ready to play whenever the tournament is held and whenever her name is called.

Pratt, 24, said her main priority during this time is to remain healthy and stay engaged.

“Staying active and being able to maintain being in shape safely while we all wait out the coronavirus pandemic is my number one concern,” she said. “Staying healthy during this time physically has helped me to stay healthy emotionally as well. Watching exercise videos on YouTube, eating the right foods and utilizing my backyard has been working out great. Being active also helps me to cope with stress and I also believe that it will help in fighting off illnesses.”

The baby of the team, Clarke, 18, said she has been able to work hard from home and improve her skills. She finished as the runner-up to Cartwright at the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association’s (BLTA) Giorgio Baldacci National Open Championships in December.

“No matter what the circumstances are, we must be thankful to God for everything He has done,” she said. “Despite being quarantined, many of us are able to continue to work hard. By conducting regular workouts and using creative ideas while at home, players can set goals to achieve. At this time I encourage the tennis community as well as citizens to stay healthy, safe and positive.”

Russell and Cartwright both come with a wealth off experience.

Russell is a double medalist, including gold in women’s doubles, at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, and has represented The Bahamas numerous times in Fed Cup play and on the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) junior circuit. She along with Pratt earned their spots on the team via the BLTA Invitational Tennis Trials in March.

Cartwright has a career-high Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) singles ranking of 916 and a career-high WTA doubles ranking of 587. She has won one ITF women’s doubles title and has represented The Bahamas numerous times at Fed Cup and in ITF junior and senior tournaments. She is the winningest player for The Bahamas in women’s singles at the Fed Cup level.

Pratt is making a comeback to the sport after an outstanding junior career. She has a career-high WTA singles ranking of 953, experienced collegiate success at Nova Southeastern University, and has also played for The Bahamas at the Fed Cup level and internationally on the ITF junior circuit.

Clarke is one of the more promising young players in The Bahamas. She got a taste of senior competition at last year’s Fed Cup tournament where she won her only match. She along with Sierra Donaldson prevailed over the Bajan team of Melena Lopez and Chloe Weekes. Clarke has a career-high ITF Juniors singles ranking of 261.

In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the ITF has decided to suspend all events until July 13, 2020.

Team Bahamas is set to play against countries such as Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, host nation Panama and Uruguay. The seven teams are going to play a round-robin format in two pools. One pool will have four teams and the other three teams will be in another pool. The winners of each pool will advance to a playoff to determine which nation will advance to the Americas Zone Group I for 2021.

The BLTA encourages its athletes to stay ready during this global crisis by keeping their bodies conditioned so that they will come out stronger and ready to meet the challenges ahead.

In a statement, an ITF spokesperson said they will continue to review the COVID-19 situation with other stakeholders and aim to resume ITF events as soon as it is safe to do so.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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