A nine-member team departed Guyana yesterday for Barbados where they will participate in the Barbados Junior International Lawn tennis tournament this weekend.
The team includes five Under-18 players in Jeremy Miller, Jonathan Antczak, Rajesh Ramrattan Aruna Ramrattan and Tracy Azeez and four Under-14 players in Daniel Lopes, Seanden David-Longe, Gavin Lewis and the lone female Krystal Sukhra.
According to national coach Shelly Daly Ramdyhan, the grade four tournament will see the Under-14 players going straight into the main draw while the Under-18 players will have to go through a qualification round.
The tournament will be played at the National Tennis Centre, Wildey, St. Michael, Barbados and the entrance fee is US$50.
The qualification rounds begin today and the main draw begins on Monday. The tournament is billed to conclude on April 4.
Some thirty-two players will contest the qualification rounds today and tomorrow.
The players will also be taking part in the doubles event in their respective categories.
Guyana’s hopes of bringing home silverware may lie in the hands of Lopes and David-Longe, according to Daly-Ramdyhan, who did not want to single out specific players but stated that those two were noted by Anthony Jeremiah, an official from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) who was recently in Guyana. “We (GLTA) are hoping for the players to at least make it out of the first round.”
Daly-Ramdyhan said that Jeremiah was of the strong opinion that the two are players with a future. “Overall the ITF official was pleased with what he saw in the players here,” Daly-Ramdyhan added.
The tournament will see some of the ITF ranked juniors taking part and Bahamian Rodney Curry at 198 is the highest ranked player in the tournament. However, he is expected to receive stiff competition from “Home boy” Barbadian Darren King who is ranked at 207 with some ten other players having ITF rankings in the 200s and below.
Meanwhile the nine players who will be taking part in the tournament are all footing their own bill as securing sponsorship was limited and, according to Daly-Ramdyhan, because of the Mashramani activities last month, sponsors said that their budget were expended.
The cost for one player, according to the national coach, is more than $180,000 and all of the players’ expenses have been footed by their respective families.
Daly-Ramdhyan said that for future tours the Guyana Lawn Tennis Association (GLTA) will be seeking the assistance of corporate sponsors to offset their expenses.
Sending this contingent to Barbados has seen almost $2,000,000 being put up by the players’ families.
Daly-Ramdhyan said that “The exposure will be good for the players as it will encourage them to return home and work harder on their game.”
The national coach echoed the view of the ITF official who was here that “the players need more international exposure to further develop their skills.”
She noted that there are nine international tournaments on the circuit where Guyana can take part but because of clashes with school dates and the expense they will only be able to send teams to about 3 or 4.
Some of the ITF-sanctioned tournaments that the GLTA will be targeting are the Coca Cola Open in St. Lucia from August 3-10, DIGICEL Tournament in St. Vincent and an Under-13 tournament in August.
Meanwhile on the local scene the lack of professional courts is affecting the game significantly.
Only the Le Meridien Pegasus courts are available for competitive play.
“The lack of facilities is not aiding the development of the game,” Daly-Ramdhyan said, adding that the National Sports Development Council (NSDC) had earmarked a plot of land on Woolford Avenue to have professional courts built but to date this has not materialized.
On the local card, Daly-Ramdhyan noted, is the Banks DIH Invitational which the GLTA hopes to run off during the Easter holidays.