Tough serve


Fitness will be the key, says Darian King, as Barbados gets set to host Colombia in Davis Cup Americas Group l action this weekend at the National Tennis Center in Wildey, St Michael.

King, Barbados’ number one seed and this country’s most decorated tennis player with an Association of Tennis Professional ranking of 177, said during this morning’s press conference held at the Barbados Olympic Association, that this weekend’s showdown will be taxing.

“It is going to be tough. For the last couple of weeks, I haven’t been a hundred percent physically. In Australia I got pretty sick and now I am really trying to get back to work… I have been working pretty hard in the off-season, prepared well, and hopefully just that little patch it passes, and to maintain my fitness.

Barbados’ Davis Cup team (from left), Matthew Foster-Estwick, Kaipo Marshall, non-playing captain Damien Applewhaite, Darian King, Haydn Lewis and Xavier Lawrence. (Picture by Morissa Lindsay)

“They have a great calibre of players, Robert Farah and Cabal [Juan Sebastian] who just came off the team double [Australian Open final] and obviously it is amazing at a Grand Slam [level] and achieving those heights. So obviously we are looking forward to the doubles, and then the singles. They have guys that have been in the top hundred before, so it is going to be a really great experience and I am looking forward to it,” King said.

With the match days being reduced from three to two and the sets being restricted from five to three, both teams will need to adapt to the new Davis Cup format.

But King along with veteran Haydn Lewis will have to endure as they carry the brunt of the weight of a young inexperienced side led by non-playing captain Damien Applewhaite along with Mathew Foster-Estwick who tasted international competition last year in Group II against Venezuela, and teenagers Xavier Lawrence and Kaipo Marshall.

Lewis pointed to the first round tie being mentally demanding, saying: “It is only three sets now and not five sets, so physically it is not going to be as demanding but Saturday will be a challenge. We have to play the doubles and then go in to play singles right after, so win or lose, it is going be tough for either of us [teams].”

The 32-year-old acknowledged that Barbados were the underdogs heading into the first round tie and therefore did not intend to put any added pressure on themselves.

“There is always pressure because you want to win but for sure there is no pressure on us given the level that we are at and the level that Colombia is at… So I don’t think that there is need for us to put added pressure on ourselves to win. For sure I know both of us and any other member of the team will go out there and put their best foot forward and pretty much worry about things that we can control on the day,” Lewis said.

He added: “Like any other tennis match or any other sport you are competing in, there is going to be a natural form of pressure because you would like to win, but I don’t think any of us is feeling the pressure by their presence or who we are playing against.”

Should Barbados win both singles matches on the opening day, the option of resting King and Lewis for the doubles and utilize them during the reverse singles is a plan that is on the table for consideration.

Whether Applewhaite and his charges will change their strategy considering the format has been shortened is a decision to be made. The captain said: “The mission is always to win three matches in the tie, so we will continue to assess the standard of our players and make that decision today or tomorrow.”

Colombia ranked 12 places above Barbados at number 26 and led by captain Pablo Gonzalez are looking forward to the challenge and their top class doubles team in the form of Juan Sebastian- Cabal and Robert Farah are both high on confidence having recently reached the Australia Open Grand Slam final.

Gonzalez said: “We know them [King and Lewis] a little bit but we will look more at our stuff and prepare our match. And in Davis Cup ranking doesn’t really matter, you are playing for your country, and for sure it will be a tough match. So we will work on our game, adapt to the conditions to be as prepared as we can be.”

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