The Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association (BLTA) has named collegiate tennis player Elana Mackey to replace veteran Larikah Russell for the upcoming Billie Jean King Cup Tournament, formerly known as the Fed Cup.
With that roster change, the team for that tournament will now comprise team captain Kerrie Cartwright, Simone Pratt and collegiate players Sydney Clarke and Mackey. Cartwright was the captain at the 2019 edition of the tournament.
The tournament is set for June 23-26 at the Centro de Alto Rendimiento Fred Maduro in Panama City, Panama.
According to BLTA President Perry Newton, Russell opted not to travel with the team and 18-year-old Mackey was the next player in line based on the qualifying events the association held. Mackey plays for the Mars Hill University Lions in Mars Hill, North Carolina.
“Larikah Russell has opted not to travel with the team. We went with the next ranked person from our events,” Newton stated. “We still believe that the team will do well. The team is poised to advance to the next level.”
This will be Mackey’s first rodeo for The Bahamas in this competition. Newton said the team has not come together as yet, but everyone has been preparing and practicing.
“It has been very challenging. Honestly, we haven’t had the team together in one place because of the difficulties of COVID-19. Also, two of the persons on the team are in college so logistically it is basically impossible. Everyone has been doing their preparations, especially our college students who are in competition basically every week. Everyone has been preparing for this particular tournament,” Newton said.
The Bahamas is set to play in the Americas Group II Event A. They will go up against Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Panama and Uruguay. The teams will be placed into two pools with the winners of each of the pool playing each other and the overall winner advancing to the Americas Group I for 2022.
In 2019, the team won Pool B but eventually lost to host nation Peru in the final.
“We are looking for a very high finish. We are confident we have the skillset and necessary experience to be successful and advance to the next round,” Newton said. He went further to state that it is difficult to gauge where the other teams in the competition are at this point because they too have not played competitively together since 2019.
On the men’s national team, there has been no changes in the roster for the Davis Cup competition. The team remains as is with captain Marvin Rolle along with Justin Roberts, Kevin Major Jr. and Baker Newman.
“Everybody is continuing with their preparations. Everyone is quite involved and quite excited in terms of playing in the Davis Cup. They are excited to go and represent the country,” Newton said.
The men will play at the same location as the women’s team, in the Americas Group III from June 30 to July 3. Also competing will be Antigua & Barbuda, Bermuda, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, Trinidad & Tobago and the US Virgin Islands.
Two nations will advance from this group to contest the 2022 World Group II playoffs. Newton is confident that this team can be one of the two teams that will be promoted.
As with most sporting events being played, Newton said that the tournament will have stringent COVID-19 protocols in place, including testing and screening while competition is ongoing.