It appears to be an open verdict.
Or, as president of the Barbados Tennis Association, Dr Raymond Forde, has described it, “a loophole”.
But Darian King’s recent victory in the Courtesy Garage Top 8 at the Ocean View courts has not gone down well with some in the lawn tennis fraternity.
Complaints in several quarters are that King, turned professional more than a year ago, has been competing on the International Tennis Federation Circuit and should not be allowed to compete in amateur tournaments, or in tournaments catering predominantly to amateurs.
But in an interview with Barbados TODAY at the National Tennis Centre, Wildey, St Michael yesterday, Forde said he had checked with the regional body, Central American & Caribbean Tennis Confederation (COTECC), and the rule was that once a tournament did not specify that a professional could not play, then the person could compete.
“In other words, if [Roger] Federer or Serena [Williams] came down here . . . and they decided they will play, we cannot stop them. Obviously Serena will not play in a local tournament but the ruling is once the competition does not stipulate [they can play],” he said.
Acknowledging that it was a loophole in the rules, Forde added: “. . . But you know there are loopholes in everything.”
Questioned as to the fairness of a professional not only playing against amateurs but winning a tournament, Forde responded: “I’m aware it is not fair but that is the choice that he makes and we as an association can’t tell him that he cannot [play].”
Forde described Barbados’ best lawn tennis player as an affable young man and said he believed one of the reasons King would have played in the tournament at Ocean View in late December and early January because it was an area where he grew up. He pointed to the fact that King was also a keen footballer and had not only played in the David Thompson Memorial Constituency Councils Football Classic, but had also emerged as the competition’s Most Valuable Player.
When contacted, an official of the International Tennis Federation stated that they had no controlling influence or authority in amateur tennis and that individual associations would have to deal with that type of situation.
Meanwhile, Forde also told Barbados TODAY he would like to see lawn tennis played in more schools across Barbados. He said there was a plethora of talent which could possibly become exceptional if nurtured within the school system.
Forde noted that several years ago when his association presented some schools with tennis equipment, about 30 were involved in the sport but now the numbers had dwindled to approximately seven – three primary and four secondary – which regularly participated. He was adamant that this needed to change.
While taking some of the blame for not following through to see if that equipment was being put to use, Forde promised that this current year the BTA was hopeful that by investigating the equipment’s current status they could at least initiate the process of getting more schools involved. This, he added, would hopefully lead to the identification of the best players and guiding them to becoming possibly the next Serena Williams or Roger Federer.
Forde said that over the past few years there had been a slight increase in the number of students participating in the sport. Nevertheless, he stressed there was room and a need for many more to get involved. He explained, though, that when the BTA contacted several schools in this endeavour it often proved to be challenging.
“. . . There is a challenge in the sense of transportation. If you are having your [physical education] class here, a teacher must be present so there are a lot of logistical things which need to occur first. It sounds nice, persons saying, ‘How come you have four courts? You should be able to have four sets of schools here every day’, but there are challenges,” he said.
“On the [National] Sports Council there is a tennis coach, who actually works with about eight schools he visits on a regular basis in an effort to get the sports out. Some years ago, we actually had a programme going back 14 years, where our coach would cover at least 30 schools, but the ministry changed their focus and preferred the games teachers. So what we tried to do is we had a number of courses to train the games teachers but obviously, again, the games teacher has to do cricket, football, netball, athletics . . . so that was [sidelined]. Tennis may not have a lot of crowd appeal like our more traditional sports like: football, cricket, basketball, tennis . . . the thing with tennis is we have been a very successful sport and we do have exceptional talent like Darian King who has been able to make it up to the world rankings.
“We do have a pretty large junior programme here. We usually stress to the kids that we want tennis to give you a good rounded education. We’re not looking necessarily for the big stars because we know our gene-pool is small but the thing is tennis can afford quite a few kids with scholarships to go to the [United States],” he noted, as he emphasized the BTA was up to any challenge if it resulted in the development of young players.