Mark “Venom” Griffith is the new Barbados Public Workers Co-operative Credit Union Limited Monarchs of the Courts Road Tennis champion.
The number one seed won the island’s most prestigious road tennis competition in an eagerly awaited battle with Davien “Force Ripe” Taylor 21-4, 24-26, 21-14, 21-17, at the Big Rock Arena, Spring Garden last night.
Even though the match was entertaining and pulsating at various stages and Taylor showed his class several times throughout the game, Griffith was only under real pressure in the second set which was an entertaining exchange won by Taylor.
In the first match, Griffith established his authority over his young opponent by handing him a dreaded sow. In this set Griffith employed the strategy of keeping the ball low to nullify the attacking strokeplay of Taylor.
This tactic worked and Griffith rushed to a 4-1 lead when the service changed for the first time. Taylor tried attacking the low balls which caused him to make several unforced errors with most of his shots going into the net. Griffith sensing that Taylor was beginning to panic continued to keep the ball low and piled up the points.
At the second change of service, Griffith was leading 12-3, and by then it was clear that a sow was on the cards for Taylor who was fighting desperately to avoid that indignity. By then several of Griffith’s fans in the big crowd were urging him to sow Taylor.
Griffith increased the pressure on Taylor by advancing to an 18-4 advantage. At 20-4 Taylor acknowledged that he could not escape from being sowed and decided to concede defeat. Griffith officially won the set 21-4.
Stung after being sowed in the first game, Taylor came out fighting in the second set. He took the game to Griffith, most of his smashes were on song, and as a result of this approach, the arena was transformed into a battleground with the two combatants trying to outmanoeuvre each other.
The exchange between Griffith and Taylor produced the best tennis of the night. Taylor held the lead at 3-2 and 7-3, Griffith fought back and locked the game at 8, he took the lead at 9-8, but a smash from Taylor locked it at 9.
The game was locked at 13, 14 and 15, Taylor was now into his groove and was smashing the ball at will, in between his smashes he played several deft shots. There were several fantastic rallies by the two players.
Three smashes from Taylor were a highlight of the set. The first one sped down the the court like a car participating in a motor rally only to find Griffith waiting there for it and stroking the ball back to Taylor. The second smash flew like a tracer bullet to the right of the court, and yet, somehow, Griffith managed to lob it back into play. Taylor did not give up, he smashed the ball to the left of the court and Griffith stroked it back to him.
This was tennis at its best and the spectators enjoyed every moment of it. Taylor held the lead at 20-18 and Griffith locked the game at 20. A series of rallies saw the lead seesawing between the two players before a smash from Taylor gave him victory at 26-24.
Griffith came out fighting in the third game and at one stage of the match with the score at 13-7 in his favour, it seemed another sow was on the cards for Taylor. This was not to be. Taylor fought gallantly and avoided the ignominy of another sow, but was never really in the game which was won 21-14 by Griffith.
Taylor led Griffith for most of the early part of the fourth match until Griffith caught up with him and locked the game at 17. A point later he took over the lead and raced to victory at 21-17 to win the title and pocket the first prize of $15,000.
After the match, Griffith said it was fantastic to win the title after losing last year’s final to Julian “Michael Jackson” White. He described Taylor as a young and promising talent.
Taylor who was playing in his first national final said it was a great experience to showcase his skills in such a high profile tournament. The young tennis player said he started with a plan but everything got away from him after he lost the first game. Taylor promised that he would be back in 2019 and had high hopes of winning the title then.