BLTA adjusts Fed Cup team as Russell opts not to travel

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Larikah Russell

By BRENT STUBBS

Senior Sports Reporter

bstubbs@tribunemedia.net

WITH the most successful player Larikah Russell opting not to travel as the player/captain, the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association has made some adjustments to the team that will represent the Bahamas in Zone B of the Americas Group II of the Fed Cup.

The tournament is scheduled for July 18-23 in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

BLTA president Darnett Weir confirmed over the weekend that after Russell declined to submit a written confirmation to serve on the team, they decided to replace her with Sierra Donaldson, who will join touring pro Kerrie Cartwright and collegians Danielle Thompson and Simone Pratt when they take on Bermuda, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras and Trinidad & Tobago in the round-robin format.

The seven teams will be placed in two different pools with the winners of each pool advancing to the playoffs to determine which team will advance to the Americas Zone Group I in 2019. Host Mexico already clinched the other spot by beating Peru 2-0 in Zone A that was completed in Metepec, Mexico, on June 23.

The team will now be captained by Marvin Rolle, who recently served in that capacity when he led the men's Davis Cup team in Costa Rica to a 2-1 win over the host nation to advance out of the Americas Zone III and back into Zone II for 2019 along with Honduras on June 2.

"After Larikah chose not to serve, we went with the next person who was Sydney Clarke, but she was not available," Weir said. "So we went to the next eligible person, who was Sierra Donaldson. We made our selection of the players from the Open Nationals results in December, 2017."

Weir said the team is scheduled to leave on July 16 and once they are done, they will head to the Central American and Caribbean Games.

Only Donaldson will not make the trip to Barranquilla, Colombia, as Russell was selected by the Bahamas Olympic Committee to serve as the captain of the team of Cartwright, Thompson and Pratt.

Russell indicated that she declined the opportunity to travel with the Fed Cup team because she felt disrespected by the BLTA when they only selected her to be the player/captain for Fed Cup and didn't submit her name to the BOC for the CAC Games. After a clash with the BLTA over what was determined to be an "oversight" for the CAC Games, she said she opted not to go with the Fed Cup team.

She indicated that when she asked for a letter from the BLTA to request time off for her job to travel with the Fed Cup team, they assumed that she was not interested in going to the CAC Games. But Russell said the BLTA never approached her about the CAC Games.

Additionally, Russell said they had nominated Ricardo Demeritte Jr to travel as the captain so that Russell could concentrate on playing, but the BLTA selected Rolle. Russell said she was just disappointed that the BLTA made a decision on the CAC team selection without consulting her. "I've been working hard all year to be included on these two teams," she stated. "I didn't want to just be considered as a captain. I'm just tired of being disrespected, but I'm not going for them. I'm just going for the experience and to be able to help the girls out. But I'm just not interested in going to Fed Cup again."

Weir said the BLTA was hoping that Russell would have changed her mind and still gone with the Fed Cup team, which would have been reunited for the first time since 2013 when they won the tie in El Salvador.

"Even though the dynamics have changed, our expectations is for them to go over there and do their best," she said. "We're missing Larikah, but I'm quite sure that this group will get the job done."

Russell, who has participated in Fed Cup since 2000, has posted the best results by any Bahamian player in Fed Cup history.

The Grand Bahamian native, who is actively involved in softball in New Providence and coaching tennis, has compiled a 31-17 win-loss record in total wins, 14-8 in singles just behind Cartwright's 14-6 mark. She's also leading the way in doubles with an 11-9 record with Nikkita Fountain.

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