Bicknell digs deep, tops Florida tourney
BLAISE Bicknell, the 10-year-old Jamaican tennis standout, is proving to be a handful in age-group tournaments in the United States.
On Monday, Bicknell captured the 12-and-under division of the Orange County Fall Sectional at Lake Cane Tennis Centre in Orlando, Florida, beating Robert Hammond, 6-3, 60, in the final.
Ranked No 18 in Florida and No 31 in the USA, Bicknell went into the tournament as the youngest player and the fifth seed.
This tournament only accepts entries from the top 32 ranked players in the USA, but the young Jamaican was unfazed by his challengers and ripped through the fabric of the draw with tough, scintillating play.
Following his straight sets 6-0, 6-1 victory over Myles Decoste, Bicknell returned to account for Daniel Labrador, 6-1, 6-0, to move on to the quarter-finals where he outclassed the No 2 seed, 12 year-old Michael Heller.
It was a tense match against an excellent all-round player, Michael Heller — the No 16 rank in the USA — but Bicknell won, 1-6, 7-5, 6-2.
The young Jamaican was relentless in his play and never stopped fighting. He eventually wore his opponent down to emerge the deserved victor with consistent play and mental strength in the three-hour marathon.
Later on, Bicknell fought through exhaustion to beat 12-year-old Sebastian Korda, the No 3 seed in the tournament who is ranked No 18 in USA.
This was another intense three-set match which lasted for two-and-a-half hours. In this match, Bicknell had to use consistently deep and heavy shots to overcome his more powerful opponent, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, to reach the final.
Sebastian Korda is the son of Peter Korda, who is also the coach. The senior Korda in 1998 was rated No 2 in the world while Pete Sampras was ranked at No 1.
Bicknell wrapped up the tournament by stopping the powerful and experienced 12-year-old Hammond, the No 1 seed in tournament who is also rated No 11 in the US, in the final to bring home the trophy.