Sports

Kevin Major Jr. slices his way to men’s national title

Number two-seeded Kevin “K.J.” Major Jr. took down top-ranked and two-time champion Baker Newman in straight sets in a highly spirited men’s championship match to climax the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association’s (BLTA) Giorgio Baldacci National Open Championships at the BLTA’s National Tennis Center on Saturday. Major won, 7-5 and 6-3.

With that win, Major booked a spot on the 2020 Davis Cup team for The Bahamas. Newman also made the team with his runner-up finish.

Newman is ranked at number 911 on the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) World Rankings. Major is at number 1169.

This was Major’s first appearance in the open nationals championship game, and for him, he said it feels like a weight was lifted off his shoulders.

“I have always lost in either the quarterfinals or the semifinals – always close,” Major said. “I feel like so much pressure was relieved because people expect me to play well here because of how well I do abroad. It feels like a two-ton dumbbell came off my shoulders.”

Newman led 4-1 early in the first set as he played more composed and relaxed in comparison to Major who came out hitting hard but was unsettled. Once Major settled down, he started placing the ball in winning positions on the court.

“I always have high energy but sometimes the shot don’t land and I just need time to find my range,” Major said. “I don’t really care about the score because I was down 5-3 with two breaks but it didn’t matter once I found my rhythm. I am confident in myself that I can come back from whatever the score is.”

For Newman, who played in his first tournament after suffering an injury a few months ago, said he just could not close the match out. He was happy with his play despite the loss.

“I had set point in the first set to secure that set and couldn’t close it out,” Newman said. “K.J. played some really good points when he needed to. He played really well, I thought it was a good match and the quality was really high. I felt like conditions got worse in the second set for both of us and the momentum kept rolling in his favor. I had my chances to win.”

Major, 24, powered his way back in that first set when he tied the score at 5-5. The hard-hitter came back and won the final two games as spectators cheered for both competitors who put on a show.

The second set was competitive early on as it was tied 2-2. Major went up 4-2 before Newman won one more game. With the score now at 4-3 in Major’s favor, he won the next two games to end the set and the match. Major shouted louder than the other times in the match as he was crowned the national champion.

Major said he had a good year on the Florida circuit and looks to get better next year.

“The year for me was really good. I finished the Florida circuit with a win-loss record of 53-1. I won four tournaments this year in Florida. I have been progressively getting better year by year so next year you should expect more.”

Major, who hasn’t played Davis Cup in about three years, said he is happy to be on the team for 2020.

“To be on the team again feels good. This will be the strongest team we have in a long time. We will win,” Major said.

Every time he plays, he said he represents The Bahamas.

For Newman, he said it feels good to be back on the team after playing Davis Cup for the past three years.

They will join Justin Roberts who got an automatic spot due to his international ranking – number 449 in the ITF men’s singles.

One more spot is left and that spot will be decided by who wins the BLTA Invitational tournament that will be held early in the new year.

The Bahamas will play in Davis Cup in June 2020.

Major said he will begin his training today for next year’s tournaments.

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Simba French

Simba joined The Nassau Guardian in 2012 as a technical producer for Guardian Radio 96.9 FM. He joined the Editorial Department as a sports reporter in 2018. Simba has covered a wide range of sports stories, including the 2018 CARIFTA in Nassau, Bahamas. Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism

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