St Michael still champs
‘Lil man’ and ‘venom’ lead parish to fifth consecutive win
Three months ago Mark “Venom” Griffith and Antoine “Lil Man” Daniel had the biggest rivalry in road tennis.
But on Saturday night, the two players teamed up to propel St Michael to their fifth consecutive “A” class title to bring the curtain down on the National Sports Council Inter-Parish Road Tennis Championships at the Springer Memorial School.
In contrasting styles –– Griffith with his usual solid defensive self, while Daniel entertained the large crowd and thousands tuned in live on CBC Channel 8 with a flurry of shots –– the duo easily and expectedly trounced Christ Church’s pair of Marson Johnson and Anthony “Ears” Mitchell to collect the winner’s prize of $10,500.
Not to be left out, Christ Church’s Victor “Earth” Ward and Randy “Cat” Yearwood also walked away $6,000 richer, after turning back a determined St George outfit to claim the “B” class title for the first time.
And, in one of the most dominant and impressive performances of the night, St George’s Emar Edwards played an almost flawless match to whip Dario Hinds of St James and lift the 21 and Under title.
It was another superb showing from perennial champions St Michael, proving that even without usual representative Julian “Michael Jackson” White, there are still considered the best road tennis parish on the island.
Griffith, while not at his best, was more than good enough to stop a determined Johnson in straight sets 21-16, 21-14, for the second straight year.
Johnson put up a much better fight this time around, as was evident in the second set when both players thrilled the crowd during a 36-rally, which Griffith eventually won.
But on the slow surface, he was just no match for the sport’s best defender, who at times showed why he is considered by many to be the island’s number one player.
“Playing against guys like Marson, I am never worried,” a confident Griffith told Barbados TODAY moments after his victory.
“And once I’m playing with a teammate like Antoine it makes it all the easier. Our names were written on that cheque from the time the competition started because I knew we were an unbeatable team.”
Daniel was unmerciful in his handling of Mitchell, a former number two seed.
From the first point of the match in which he incredibly flicked a forehand crosscourt winner past his opponent, Daniel unreeled shot after shot after shot, much to the delight of the crowd.
Needing to stop Daniel from scoring an accumulative 30 points, the opening set was finished soon after it started as Daniel used a brisk 5-0 start as a launchpad for a commanding 17-8 lead.
Two more powerful forehands took the score to 20-9, before Daniel put Mitchell out of his misery with another smoking crosscourt forehand winner.
Knowing it was virtually impossible to restrict Daniel under nine points in the next two sets, Mitchell agreed to concede the match, only to be eventually persuaded to finish the contest in the interest of the public.
And despite trailing 4-9 early on, Daniel rebounded to take the second set 21-15 to formalize the victory.
“Venom is a very good player so I always knew it would be difficult to beat us.
“Defenders like Ears don’t trouble me at all, so I was always confident coming into the finals,” Daniel explained.
Johnson and Mitchell took home $5500.
The second time proved to be the charm for Ward, who lost out to St Michael in last year’s final.
But once he dispatched of St George’s Bruce Pounder 21-9, 21-15 in the opening game, it left Pounder’s partner Ivor Lashley with the herculean task of limiting Yearwood under 24 points.
Lashley started out positively, winning the first set 21-12.
However, he wasn’t able to maintain that momentum in the ensuing set, and once Yearwood reached 13 points, Lashley literally gave up, losing the set 16-21, with both players opting not to play the third game.
Earlier, Edwards had gotten revenge on Hinds who defeated him in last month’s Clash of the Titans competition, to capture his second title and the first placed prize of $4000.
It was a match in which the 17 year-old student of Combermere controlled from start to finish and included handing his arch-rival a sow in the opening set.
Things didn’t get any better for Hinds, a student of Barbados Community College, in the second set, as the normally defensive-minded Edwards broke out of his shell to play multiple passing shots past his opponent.
Hinds did manage to escape the ignominy of a double sow though, creeping into double figures with his opponent having already reached 17.
The end came soon after with Hinds finishing the match with three consecutive unforced errors.
“I’ve been practising a lot on my attacking game and tonight it really paid off. Winning the first game also gave me a lot of confidence so I was able to play my shots freely,” an overjoyed Edwards noted.