By Morissa Lindsay
Out of a possible ten, the planning, organization and overall execution of the just concluded Barbados Road Tennis Open (BRTO) have received full marks from some of the die-hard supporters of the island’s indigenous sport. The event was put on by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, the Barbados Road Tennis Association and the National Sports Council.
The grand tournament concluded last Saturday with Mark ‘Venom’ Griffith cementing his status as the king of road tennis in Barbados along with Kim Holder winning the women’s competition as they both pocketed the BDS$20,000 cash prize for their top- class performances.
Player and coach Trevor Ifill was among those who shared his views about the organization of the BRTO, the line technology used and cash incentives offered for the competition.
“This was a well put together tournament I must say and must thank all the staff and everybody who came together to make it possible. It also brought back some new life to road tennis and I haven’t seen crowd like that around road tennis for a while but during the preliminary and knockout stages the crowds were really heavy. So, I want to commend those who put on this tournament, it was very well done and I can’t criticize them in one way or the other,” Ifill explained.
An active participant in road tennis, Ifill also believes that the prize money was definitely worth it because of the time, training and resources that goes into preparing to become the best in the sport.
He was also of the view that the crowd wanted to see other emerging talents and they got that in 17-year-old Shakeem Nurse who he described as a breath of fresh air to the sport having reached such a grand finale against the iconic Mark ‘Venom’ Griffith.
Ifill was also impressed with the usage of the technology particularly on finals night. “What I loved about it most is that you could see the replay on the second screen and you could have given your own opinion on what you think was wrong and I find that the officials were accurate in making that decision so, I must give them ten out of ten,” he said.
Road tennis enthusiast Dale Rudder stated that the turnout alone was testament to the fact that all was needed was support for the game and the players. “The overall quality was good, the setup was great and the road tennis itself was of a high quality,” he said.
Rudder added: “I am on the ground and there are two components. Since Covid, people want to be outside and there is an ownership because as Bajans become more aware they tend to gravitate more. And coming out of Covid where road tennis was one of the few sports that was allowed, I think that it is a whole heap of people from all demographics who are playing road tennis and it is relatively cheap to play and it is we ting. It is good exercise and already you have a massive following and we are the world champions.”
Over the years Rudder has had a pet peeve with the number of calls that ended in controversy and with the implementation of line technology for the first time in the BRTO competition, he described the move as a great one. He however believes that it can be improved upon especially for some of the close line calls but in general for him it is a step in the right direction.
Head of the Professional Road Tennis Association, Dale Clarke, sees the BRTO as a wonderful initiative even though he believed that more could have been done to attract a larger number of players.
“It was a good iniative. I honestly thought that more could have been done to attract more players but with the time constraints and trying to get it done before getting into the heart of the hurricane season would have made the organizers stick with the format that was used,” Clarke told Barbados TODAY.
He also commended the implementation of the line technology and prize money awarded but contrary to Ifill and Rudder who were pleased with the turnout of spectators, Clarke on the other hand said he expected a greater turnout. “I thought that the Gymnasium would have been sold out because it is our indigenous sport, that is the honest truth. I was a little disappointed at the numbers.”
Clarke also expressed that before departing to the great beyond, it is his dream to see both male and female road tennis players on the island become millionaires.
A treasure to the sport of road tennis in Barbados particularly as an organizer having hosted several high stake competitions in the past, Clarke had a few suggestions on the way forward for the BRTO and among those is for the Barbados Road Tennis Association to take charge with the organization of the tournament.
“When you are working with Government, they should be more the facilitators and the organization, for example the Barbados Road Tennis Association, should be the persons executing the tournament. The Barbados Road Tennis Association should be taking more of the lead when it comes to national tournaments. I think the emphasis should be on the association steering the tournament as they partnered with Government basically leading the way. They have to get to a stage where the association does it because they are more familiar with the intricacies of putting on tournaments,” Clarke added.
Also sharing his views on the tournament, Aaron Barker who coached third place finisher Dario Hinds said to him the BRTO organizers did a good job.
He however thinks there is room for improvement where the line technology is concerned. “I think that still needs to be tweeted because I saw that only one camera was being used and that was only on one end so obviously trying to use the line at the opposing end would have been an issue and I saw that made a couple errors. But I think if we had a couple more cameras that it would have been great actually. The determination of points using the line technology was taking a little too long.” [email protected]