Mark “Venom Griffith the number one seed and defending women’s champion Sheldene Walrond are into the men and women’s final of the Professional Road Tennis Association’s Monarchs Of The Courts Competition after defeating Curtis Jones and Rachel Smith respectively in the first semi-finals of the tournament at the Big Rock Arena, Spring Garden Highway last night.
Griffith progressed to the final after defeating Jones 24-26, 21-11, 23-21, 21-8 in a keenly contested battle. Even though the match between Walrond and Smith was a contentious affair, the defending champion had an easy 21-14, 21-17 victory over her opponent.
The first set between Jones and Griffith was a thriller. Jones gave early notice that he was not going to be intimidated by the number one seed by unleashing several attacking shots that left Griffith flat-footed.
Jones, the number five seed, held the advantage when service changed for the first time at 3-2, he maintained the three-point lead at 9-6. Griffith fought back and locked the game at 9, but regained the lead at 11-9 and held it when service changed at 13-12.
The game was played at a rapid pace and included several breathtaking rallies between the two players with both of them moving each other around the court like men on a checkers board.
A smash from Griffith down the court locked the game at 13, Jones gained three points to regain the lead at 16-14 and held it 18-17. It was at that stage a see-saw battle began between Griffith and Jones to win the game.
Jones was a point away from winning the game at 20-19, Griffith locked the score at 20-20 and seemed to be heading towards winners’ row when Jones hit the ball into the net. Jones quickly locked the score at 22. It was Griffith’s turn to smash the ball into the net that allowed Jones to lock the game at 23.
The game looked as if it would go on forever when Griffith smashed the ball into the net to give Jones a 26-24 victory.
Griffith rebounded in the second game defeating Jones 21-11. He stamped his authority on Jones who was a mere two points behind the number one seed when service changed at 3-2 and 6-4. The first game appeared to be having an impact on Jones, who seemed to be playing with wooden feet.
Griffith sailed past Jones and in the twinkling of an eye rushed to 18 points while his opponent seemed to be stalled on eight. A sow appeared to be on the cards for Jones who mustered the two points he needed to avoid being sowed as Griffith won the game 21-11.
In the third game, Griffith held the lead at 4-1, 7-3 and 9-6, Jones seemed to have received a second wind and began to outplay Griffith to lock the set at 10. Jones began to find his rhythm and moved better around the court.
Jones took the lead at 16-14, but Griffith was in a fighting mood. It was at this stage he showed why he is the leading road tennis player on the island. Jones trying to get the upper hand in the game smashed several balls that Griffith returned to him.
On one occasion Jones played the ball down the centre of the court, Griffith took after it, only to discover he was going in the wrong direction, he changed his course and placed the ball to the right of Jones who could only watch as it went past him. That was brilliant from Griffith.
Griffith locked the game at 17 and then held the lead at 18-17. Jones fought back and deuced the set at 20. It was locked at 21 but quickly Griffith gained the two points he needed to claim victory at 23-21.
In the fourth game, Griffith showed why he is nationally known by the moniker “ Venom” as he inflicted a 21-8 sow on Jones to book his place in Sunday’s final where he will meet defending champion Julian “Michael Jackson” White or Davien “Force Ripe” Taylor who will battle each other tonight for the remaining place in the final.
The match between Walrond and Smith was a controversial affair. Throughout it Smith questioned several calls by the umpire, on one occasion she was warned by the umpire for stopping the game after Walrond had served.
Smith also appealed against rulings by the match officials. In the second match, she held up her hand with the score on 20-17 with Walrond serving for the match, after discussion with the two players the umpire ruled that the point be played over to the ire of some of the spectators.
Through it all, Walrond who is known for her ice-cool demeanour on the courts maintained her composure and defeated Smith 21-14, 21-17 to advance to the final to meet either her archrival Kim Holder or the stylish Abigail Haynes who play each other in the remaining semifinal tonight.
In the senior boys’ semifinal, Shakeem Nurse defeated Justin Vaughn 21-19, 25-23. Cherene Ward and Emar Edwards beat Maudlyn Blunt and Gregory Gill 21-13, 21-18 in the mixed doubles.