Battle lines drawn
Grifftih, Daniel poised for massive showdown
Mark “Venom” Griffith is not shying away from letting his intentions known about what he intends to do against Antoine “Lil Man” Daniel, in Sunday’s eagerly anticipated final of the Massy United Insurance Clash of the Titans road tennis competition.
“I am going to bring back every single ball that he hits, and I’m going to make Antoine wish that he was a defender!” was Grififth’s stern warning ahead of the showdown.
The battle lines have been drawn. And come Sunday night, spectators who flock to the Villages at Coverley will see if Griffith’s bite is as venomous as his bark.
The defending champion, Griffith will be hoping the third time proves to be the charm, when he opposes his nemesis, Daniel, in the best-of-five matchup for that massive first prize cheque of $12,000.
He knows first-hand, just how dangerous a player Daniel can be. He was eliminated by the flamboyant attacker in both the Silver Hill Road Tennis Championships and the recently concluded Monarch of the Courts competitions.
After that last heartbreaking loss –– which coincidentally took place at Coverley – where he threw away an 18-13 lead in the final set, Griffith, 30, is keen to have his revenge.
“I’m in great form and I’m really relishing this opportunity to defend my title against Antoine. The last time he defeated me here at Coverley, I didn’t take it too well, so I will be out for revenge,” he told Barbados Today during an interview earlier today.
“I know Antoine is a very good attacker, but I am a very good defender. I know people are saying that I have to change my game to stand a chance against him, but I don’t have to change my game, all I have to do is to be on point.”
Griffith quickly brushed aside the notion that Daniel “had his ghost,” arguing that anytime two good players met, anything could happen on the day.
“I am extremely confident. I’m not worrying about what happened in the past, because when you get two good players coming up against each other, the winner will be the better player on the day,” he explained.
“The last time we played, I had a lead and I got complacent and paid the price for it. That won’t happen again.”
Daniel on the other hand, who walked away with $10,000 when he won the Monarch of the Court competition, will be looking to push his winnings for the year over the $20,000 mark.
He isn’t too convinced that Griffith can stop him from doing that either.
“I feel fairly comfortable. Not that I am underestimating Venom, but my style gives him a lot of trouble.
“That defensive style that Venom has, it doesn’t bother me at all. He has to wait for me to spoil to win his points and waiting for an attacker to spoil is a very dangerous thing to do,” Daniel warned.
Facing a younger and fitter opponent, he knows some people believe the longer the game goes on, the more he will be at a disadvantage.
However, Daniel has given his assurance that will not be a problem.
“The game won’t last that long. I plan to cut the points very short. I can handle myself, so I’m not going to have a problem with that. The most this will last is four sets,” he adamantly stated.
Known for his exciting and entertaining style of play, Daniel has won over the hearts of the thousands of spectators who have flocked to Coverley to watch him play.
And going into the final, he does not plan on changing that element.
“I don’t go into games with a plan. I have a lot of tennis, so when I get on the court, I decide there and then what I am going to do.”
Money aside, one of the most pleasing aspects for Daniel, has been the fact that after a long layoff, he has been able to come back and compete with the island’s best players.
In fact, this will be his third straight finals’ appearance, following his second place showing in Silver Hill and winning performance in the Monarch of the Courts.
“For me it is more than about the top prize. The fact that I could come out of retirement, play in three competitions and make the finals of all three, tells me I am still a very skillful player,” Daniel contended.
“Venom and Jackson [Julian White] are very, very good players who play a lot of tennis. I just think it is a great achievement for a man who had hung up his racquet to come back and still be competitive among the best players.”
The night will serve off with the women’s final at 6:30 p.m, which will see Islandwide champion, Kim Holder take on the up-and-coming Rachel Smith.
The juniors will then take to the court, with the in-form and favourite Dario Hinds, battling it out with Darius “Barracus” Gaskin at 7:30 p.m., followed by the grand final at 8:30 p.m.