Top 8 Tournament director Damien Applewhaite says the recently concluded competition was a success.
The tournament, which was hosted at the National Tennis Centre in Wildey, St Michael, ended just before Christmas Day and Gabrielle Leslie and Xavier Lawrence were crowned champions.
Applewhaite, the Davis Cup captain, believes this competition plays a key role in providing a pathway for local tennis players.
“I think it’s good because of the way it’s structured, it gives better players the incentive to continue training and win some prize money at the end of the year. The tournament also acts as a soft trial because we do look at the results of this event when picking the national team. So by qualifying for this event and then doing well, you can put yourself in the spotlight for national selection.”
One of the players who might have played their way into the Barbados team is Stephen Slocombe who finished as runner up and beat eventual champion Lawrence in a preliminary match.
“I was pleasantly surprised by him (Slocombe)” Applewhaite said. “He was in College this semester so he hasn’t had much playing time with the first team, but I know he’s been practising with a team with higher level players and doing a lot of work in the gym and you can see the result from that hard work coming through on the court with his performances. I am pretty sure the selectors will definitely take a look at those results and he has done himself many favours.”
However, he acknowledges that more needs to be done in order to develop high quality tennis players locally. One plausible solution could come in the form of level-based competitions which would encourage more players to participate.
“We have an underbelly of tennis players that want competition but don’t want to be blown away. A more level-based competition which would then increase participation and then once we have high levels of participation, the cream will rise to the top and you’ll have a higher frequency of better players coming through,” he explained.
There are plans to develop competitions of this nature in 2023 once the International Tennis Federation (ITF) rolls out the World Tennis Number system to the Caribbean.
The World Tennis Number is a real time skill level rating that tracks tennis players’ progress based on their actual performances and finds evenly matched opponents in their Federation. As it stands, 15 federations have access to their numbers and more than 140 are sill to get theirs.
Barbados’ next outing will be in the Davis Cup against Pacific Oceania in February.
At the local level, the CARIBCONEX Inter-Club competition will be returning to its customary late January slot on the calendar after taking place from April 24th to May 14th this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament, which consists of a round robin format between seven clubs until the latter stages, will run until March. (JC)