Monday, June 11, 2018
By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
IT was a congratulatory night for the men's Davis Cup team as the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association honoured player/captain Marvin Rolle, No.2 seed Philip Major Jr and newcomer Jody Turnquest for their achievement last week in Costa Rica of pulling the Bahamas out of the American Zone III competition and back into Zone II.
Missing from the celebrations on Saturday night at the National Tennis Centre, hosted by BLTA president Darnette Weir and her executives and attended by family members and friends, was top seed Baker Newman, who returned to the United States.
But Rolle said in Newman's absence, the team members are grateful for the gesture.
"We are truly honoured because it's always a pleasure to represent the country," Rolle said. "Thank you so much. We appreciate it."
Joining Paragray, the two teams who advanced to zone II for 2019, Rolle said the Bahamas now has to prepare for the challenge ahead.
"We have to keep them out there, playing lots of tournaments and make sure that the guys stay training," he pointed out.
"Our guys have a lot of abilities. Once they get prepared and are ready, they can beat anybody." Evident of that was the performance of Major Jr. He went through the tournament undefeated, literally carrying the team on his back as he got the ball rolling in each of the five matches by winning the opening singles. While Newman didn't play at his back, he stepped it up to continue the streak and Major or Turnquest either partnered with Rolle to complete the doubles.
"It was a pretty great feeling. I have a great support system around me with my dad (Philip Major Sr), Marvin (Rolle), Jody (Turnquest), Mr (Tim) Dames, just a few names to mention," he stressed. "I had doubts actually going into the Davis Cup, but they stayed by my side and allowed me to keep believing in myself and as time went on, I just want to thank God...It was just a great feeling."
Major Jr said he's going to continue playing, trying to get in better shape so that he can do the best he could when called upon to again be a part of the team.
When he got the call from Rolle to fill in for Spencer Newman and Kevin Major Jr, who both could not make the trip, Turnquest said he was willing to step in and help out. He did by winning a singles match and splitting two doubles with Rolle.
"It was a great experience. I learned a lot, especially having Marvin (Rolle), PJ and Baker on my side to guide me along," Turnquest stated. "Marvin is experience, he has this experience in this field, so I was happy to have him there to help me to get through this tie. When I got the call I was very excited. I didn't know that I was going to go. So I just had to pray that I would do good."
Turnquest will be heading to Spain to train and compete in a few tournaments because he gained a lot of experience.
Bahamas Olympic Committee secretary general Derron Donaldson, a former president of the BLTA, said on behalf of president Romel Knowles, they congratulate the team and will continue to support them moving forward. "We represent 24 different sporting federations so we have to split our focus and also split funding," he pointed out. "Our goal is to have every federation make it to the highest point in sports and we would love to see tennis make it back into the Olympics."
Once they get the approval from the International Olympic Committee, they hope that they can get some tennis players on the Olympic Solidarity Funding where they can train and compete overseas to be able to compete at the next level.
"We're going to do our part," said Donaldson, who noted that they have heard the appeal from Weir and, in short order, they hope to make an announcement in that regard to what type of funding they can provide.
Another former president Steven Turnquest, the father of Jody Turnquest, said he looks forward too.
"It's very pleasing to see the success that the team had in the tie and I'm sure that there was no question that they were going to give maximum effort in trying to allow us to move up," he said. "We kept a programme going to allow these players to develop to the point where they put us in this position and we are looking forward to next year to moving forward."
Edith Powell, another former president, said that while she wasn't there to support the team, she was pleased that they were able to play for the future players who were on the sidelines waiting for their chance to make an appearance at the competition in years to come.
"I think they have done a wonderful job and we are looking forward to more Davis Cup victories and moving into zone one," she said. "That is our goal to get to the top. Nothing can stop you on the way. I'm so glad that you won. My heart was with you, although I wasn't there."
Dames, one of the BLTA executives who trained with the team, said in Costa Rica, all of the English-speaking countries were cheering for the Bahamas.
"That was awesome," he summed up. "After we ravished them, they all came and supported us. Everybody came and cheered for the Bahamas. Those teams we beat came because I think they recognised the awesomeness of this team."
Weir, rating the performance of the team, said out of a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest, they would get a 9-8. "They did a phenomenal job," she said. "We had some concerns after Spencer Newman couldn't travel. But we brought Jody Turnquest on board, so we were a bit surprised. We know they could do the job, but we didn't have our full team. Under the circumstances, they did very well."
With the first round of zone II set for February, Weir said the BLTA and itsstakeholders have to get the ball rolling right away to get the players to do some intensive training and get a cohesiveness as a team so that they can avoid getting relegated to zone III again.