Sunday, April 21, 2024

Williams gets nod


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LOCAL TENNIS is serving up Seanon Williams in hopes of acing its most crucial test.
Barbados’ former four-time national champ will finally get his chance to make it big on the Davis Cup stage after being elevated to the No. 2 singles spot for today’s Group II elimination tie against Puerto Rico at the National Tennis Centre.
It was the rather stunning announcement at yesterday’s draw ahead of the start to the critical rubber, where the loser will be relegated to play in Group III next season.
“It’s a tactical decision, a team decision, really, [because] we felt that Seanon may be able to handle [Puerto Rico No. 1] Alex [Llompart] a little better in these conditions,” said non-playing captain Kevin Yarde of the decision to play Williams in the singles matches.
“I think his game will put off Alex a little more with his heavy top-spin, especially in these windy conditions, and he’s been looking sharp over the last couple months while hitting the ball very well.
“He’s been working hard and is eager to get out there and not run from the challenge, [so] I’m comfortable that he will give 110 per cent and represent Barbados well,” Yarde added.
The decision comes as somewhat of a surprise after the country’s most seasoned player and customary No. 2, the 27-year-old Haydn Lewis, made himself available for the tie.
But the overseas-based southpaw, who holds Barbados’ Davis Cup record for the most singles (24) and total wins (37), is also coming off a near five-month hiatus from tennis, having taken a break for personal reasons.
The hosts opted to go with the gifted 22-year-old Williams, who will be appearing in his tenth tie but his first as the starting No. 2 singles player.
“I’m ready,” Williams said. “I’ve been training pretty hard over the last four months, so hopefully training will pay off and help me win a match.
“I think I’m pretty fit right now, probably the best shape I’ve ever been in, so hopefully it’s good enough to do well.”
It may prove a baptism of fire for Williams as he opens up against Puerto Rico No. 1 Alex Llompart in the second match today after top-ranked Bajan player Darian King faces Christian Garay in the opening singles match.
Lewis will return to partner King in tomorrow’s doubles match against Llompart and Gilberto Alvarez before King and Williams play the reverse singles matches against Llompart and Garay, respectively.
“We know the Barbados team pretty well, seen them in many conditions and we have a lot of respect for them. That’s why we came prepared with a good team,” said Puerto Rico captain Jorge Gonzalez.
“Like Barbados, one of our goals was to get back into Group II, and we want to stay again next year, so we believe we have the team to beat Barbados and accomplish our goals.”
The 64th ranked Bajans are rated one spot ahead of Puerto Rico.


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