By Donald Duff in St Lucia
Traditional powerhouse, the Dominican Republic prevented Trinidad and Tobago from making a clean sweep of the team events by winning the marquee men’s final at the 51st annual Caribbean Table Tennis Championships in St Lucia here on Wednesday night.
Before a fair-sized crowd at the venue, the Dominican Republic turned back the challenge of the determined Twin Island
republic side en route to a hard fought 3-2 victory.
The win by the Dominican Republic not only prevented the Trinidadians from achieving the goal of a clean sweep of the team events it also prevented Coach Reeza Burke’s side from defending the title they won last year in Guyana.
The final was every bit the mouthwatering prospect it was billed to be and the match was made even by the presence of Trini Dexter St Louis the France-based semi-professional player who won both of his team matches.
But St Louis’s heroics went in vain as the Dominican Republic snatched the title from the defending champ’s grasp when Emile Santos won the decisive final match by three games to one against a plucky but outclassed Curtis Humphreys.
St Louis had given the Trinidadians the lead when he defeated Santos in the opening match. He dropped the opening game 7-11 but took the next three 11-9, 11-4, 11-8 in a match where the southpaw St Louis neutralized Santos’s wicked backhand loops with quick counter loops of his own especially out in his forehand.
Juan Vila Jr., evened the score with a straightforward 11-4, 11-5, 11-6 win over Humphreys and the Dominican Republic took the lead for the first time in the match when Samuel Galvez defeated 62-year-old Canada-based Trinidadian David Mahabir 11-7, 11-7, 9-11, 11-5. For the spectators this was easily the most enjoyable match as Mahabir’s retrieving skills were on full display against the relentless aggression of Galvez.
In the end Mahabir’s combination two-sides, pimpled out rubbers bat just could not do the trick for Trinidad.
Then came the match of the night. Vila Jr., has victories over St Louis and as he raced to a two sets to one lead it seemed as if the fat lady was about to sing for the Trinidadians. But St Louis dug deep and exploited young Vila’s weakness to the bottom spin reverse served short into his backhand to come away with the win. St Louis won 7-11, 11-8, 2-11, 11-9, and 11-6.
In the decisive match Humphreys played a perfect second game to win 7-11 after dropping the first by a similar score but Santos powered his way to the next two games winning 11-9 and 11-6 to regain the men’s team title, a title they have won more than any other country in the history of the Caribbean championships going back to the days when Juan Vila senior, Mario Alvarez and Reymundo Fermin dominated the sport.
The two teams had reached the finals at the expense of Barbados and Guadeloupe. In the first semi-final Barbados lost to Trinidad 0-3 while Guadeloupe lost to the Dominican Republic 3-0.
In the Trinidad versus Barbados men’s semi final, Trevor Farley lost to Curtis Humphreys 9-11, 9-11, 11-7, 12-10, 8-11 while Kevin Farley lost to St Louis 9-11, 3-11, 11-7, 3-11 and Mark Dowell lost to Mahabir 8-11, 4-11, 4-11.
In the other semi final Vila Jr., defeated Gregory Cuirassier 11-2, 11-8, 4-11, 11-4 while Santos defeated Arnaud Labique 11-8, 11-3, 11-3 and Simon Tomlinson defeated Trywonn Powlett 11-7, 11-9, 11-7.
Meanwhile following their victory over Guyana, France-based Trinidad professional Rheann Chung said that despite the fact that she was pleased that two English-speaking Caribbean countries had reached the final, in her opinion the Dominican Republic female team was still tough to beat when they are at their strongest. She said that Johenny Valdez the team’s top player did not play in the tournament as she is pregnant and had she played Santo Domingo would have been tougher to defeat.
She said that Caribbean countries must have a strong programme at home since sending players to compete internationally on a regular basis alone would not help their development. She lauded the Dominican Republic for assisting their players to reach the levels that they have pointing out that prior to the present championships two of their male players had trained in Sweden.
Guyana’s women lost to Trinidad and Tobago in the women’s final on Wednesday night with Chung winning two vital matches and Aleena Edwards the other.
The Guyanese women, though disappointed in not winning the women’s title played well in the final and had Cummings won her game against Edwards, the outcome would have been different with Chelsea Edghill an overwhelming favourite to beat Linda Partap Boodhan in the deciding match.
The Guyana women reached Wednesday night’s final by defeating Barbados with Lowe defeating Angela Reid 12-10, 10-12, 11-6, 11-7, Cummings beating Sherrice Felix 11-3, 11-2, 5-11, 11-6 and Nedd outlasting Antoinette Riley 10-12, 11-6, 11-4, 7-11, 11-9
In the other semifinal between Trinidad and Tobago and the Dominican Republic, Chung beat Lynette Vila 11-3, 13-11, 11-1, Edwards lost to Eva Brito 11-8, 6-11, 6-11, 5-11, Linda Partap Boodhan lost to Yasiris Ortiz 3-11, 5-11, 8-11, Chung beat Brito 11-6, 11-8, 11-7 and Edwards beat Vila 11-8, 11-5, 11-8.