The 19th edition of the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association’s (BLTA) Junkanoo Bowl Tournament is the latest major sports event in the country to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tournament, which is sanctioned by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), was set to get underway on June 27 with the qualifying round for the main draw. The main event was set for June 29 to July 4 at the BLTA’s National Tennis Center at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre.
BLTA President Darnette Weir said: “The cancellation of the Junkanoo Bowl was a decision made by the ITF. This was done for health and safety measures.”
Over the years, this tournament has seen top juniors from around the world show up to showcase their talent. They hail from countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, France, Russia and Guatemala, just to name a few.
The event has an effect on players’ international rankings. Over the years, it has been used by Bahamian players as a gauge to see how they stack up against their international peers. Also, it is an opportunity for them to play in front of their home crowd.
“A lot of local and international players look forward to participating in this event, but this coronavirus is a major pandemic; so players, I am sure, would understand that the cancellation was for the greater good,” Weir said. “Since all ITF junior tournaments are scheduled a year in advance, and this situation with the coronavirus is rapidly evolving with so many uncertainties, postponing it later in the year may not be possible.”
Last year’s edition saw American Alexander Bernard defeating his compatriot Jack Anthrop in the final to win the boys division. On the girls side, American Ava Catanzarite took down Slovakian Anika Joskova to win that title.
In boys singles, Bahamian Jacobi Bain lost to Bernard in the semifinals. On the girls side, Bahamian Sydney Clarke fell to American Sonya Macavei in the quarter-finals.
In boys doubles, Bernard and Danish Oskar Poulsen won over Anthrop and fellow American Spencer Brachman.
Four Americans were in action in the girls doubles final. Ava Catanzarite and Maya Rukosuev defeated Mary Armistead and Sophie Williams.
Bain teamed up with Benjamin Heynold, of Great Britain, in boys doubles but they fell in the quarter-finals to Americans Samuel Reichback and Diego Trejo. Like Bain, Clarke and her teammate, Bajan Tangia Riley-Codrington, were knocked out in the quarter-finals, losing to Armistead and Williams.
The Bahamas is set to host the BLTA Goombay Splash, another ITF Juniors event, in the month of November.
According to Weir, the Junkanoo Bowl event is very important to local players.
“It is very important in that our players get an opportunity for great match play with international players and the BLTA has the awesome task of hosting players from all around the world and showcasing our small island nation to the world, which makes for good sports tourism,” she said.
A number of ITF events have been affected because of the coronavirus outbreak this year.
The JITIC (Junior International Tennis Championships) 14-and-under competition which was set for Trinidad & Tobago in late June and the COTECC (Caribbean and Central American Tennis Confederation) 12-and-under team event which was also set for late June, have both been canceled. Bahamian professional players on the tour have also seen a number of their tournaments canceled.