For the first time in four years, and just the second since he and his brother Baker came over to play for The Bahamas from the United States, Spencer Newman is men’s national champion in the sport of tennis.
Newman won in straight sets over veteran Marvin Rolle, prevailing 6-3 and 6-3, in the men’s championship final of the 2021 Giorgio Baldacci Open National Championships at the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association’s (BLTA) National Tennis Centre on Thursday. In a little over an hour, Newman controlled the match with a strong service game and a powerful forehand.
He said he is grateful for the win and is now looking forward to representing The Bahamas in Davis Cup play in 2022. The top two players from the Giorgio Baldacci nationals, in both genders, automatically qualify for the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup regional events in 2022.
“I felt like I came out fresh, settled into the match and played a solid game. I kept constant pressure on and it felt good to be out here playing well,” said Newman yesterday. “It’s been a while since I had this title and it feels good to be back on top. I got to thank my brother for his help and preparation for this event and everyone who helped this event to come off. It feels good. … I’m looking forward to the next event,” he stated.
Spencer played younger brother Baker Newman in the national semifinals and won after Baker was forced to withdraw despite leading 5-2 in the third and deciding set. Baker was ahead 1-6, 7-6(5) and 5-2, when he was forced to withdraw because of a sore back. Baker said it was his first time withdrawing from a match but went home, got some rest and came back and won the third-place match on Thursday. He defeated Donte Armbrister in that match, 6-2 and 6-3. Armbrister won the Sportsmanship Award trophy.
The final featured a couple of experienced guys who have played each other in the past. Now 38, Rolle is 10 years older than Spencer Newman. He said it’s always a joy coming out to compete with the younger players.
“It’s always a good feeling to be in the final. Spencer is a tough opponent and he came out on top today but I’m satisfied with what I was able to display out there,” said Rolle. “These guys are the future of the sport here in The Bahamas. For me, I just came out and played my hardest and I’m satisfied that I was able to give a good account of myself. It’s an honor to come out here and play, and it’s a good feeling to know that I still have something left and that I could compete with these guys.”
Former national champion Rolle said he would have liked to put a few more balls in play but can’t complain with what he was able to achieve – using his experience to make it to the final.
“I would have liked to put a li’l bit more pressure on him and challenge his second serve more,” said Rolle afterward. “I was kind of pushing it back and then he would get on me too quickly. Overall, I played well and I’m happy with it.”
Spencer Newman said he wanted to be a bit more aggressive with his serve but is happy that he was able to come out with the win.
“I served well but I still believe I was a little passive when I should have been more aggressive,” he said. “I’m hopeful to get a li’l bit more spin on my serve going into next year. If I could get some free points off my serve, that would help out big time,” he added.
The four-day nationals featured some of the finer young players in the country going up against each other for bragging rights and national team spots. As mentioned, the top two in each gender automatically qualify for the men’s Davis Cup and the women’s Billie Jean King Cup regional events in 2022. The other positions of the teams will be determined via local tournaments in 2022.
“I think the turnout was pretty good for this event,” said BLTA President Perry Newton. “It was unfortunate that the defending champion KJ (Kevin Major Jr.) was unable to play, due to illness, but a lot of the younger guys came out and fought hard. The competition was good. It was exciting to see the younger players who are now trying to make their mark in tennis in the country. Hopefully, it helps to prepare them for next year’s event and tournaments in the future.”
On the women’s side, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) sophomore Sydney Clarke won her second national title in three years when she defeated fellow collegiate athlete Elana Mackey in straight sets in the final. Clarke won easily, 6-2 and 6-0. Mackey is a sophomore at Mars Hill University in Mars Hill, North Carolina, USA. Defending Champion Kerrie Cartwright was not at this year’s tournament.
Clarke also carted off the Sportsmanship Award trophy, and Sierra Donaldson, who finished third, won the Mrs. Pennie Baldacci Award.