SANTIAGO, Chile — Blaise Bicknell and Rowland “Randy” Phillips say they played some of the best doubles tennis they have ever played in their win over Americans Evan Zhu and Omni Kumar at the Pan American Games on Wednesday.
Bicknell, Jamaica’s top-ranked player at 426th in the world, is in good form, having won his opening singles game on Tuesday.
Although Phillips, ranked 1,780th in the world, did not win his singles game, he came into this doubles match with confidence, having played out a close game with 330th-ranked Nicolas Mejia on Tuesday.
The duo was sharp to whatever the Americans posed, and their quick returns were often too much for Zhu and Kumar to handle.
Although the match was close for the first four games, with the score at 4-4, the Jamaicans began to capitalise on space left unguarded by their opponents to go on and win the set 6-4.
They started the second set as brightly as the first and forced Zhu and Kumar into hasty returns which were often outside the lines. Bicknell and Phillips were also comfortable taking that set 6-3, to seal the win.
“From start to end, we didn’t let up,” Bicknell told the Jamaica Observer after the match. “We served very well, so we’re hoping to keep this form going into the next round.”
Phillips says their familiarity with their opponents was also a factor in the win.
“We’ve seen them at tournaments; we’ve seen how they play so it helped us with knowing where to go and what to do,” Phillips said.
Bicknell said after defeating Martin Vergara on Tuesday that his footwork needed improvement. He is pleased with the adjustments he made in that regard.
“It improved a lot today,” he said. “We had a good practice this morning. We went out there and we played very aggressively and it paid off in the end.”
Phillips is relieved to now have a win to back up his strong performances.
“This is definitely a good feeling because it’s my first one this week,” he said. “It’s a great feeling when representing your country to get a W for Jamaica. It helps me to move past yesterday and I’m looking forward to the next one.”
Bicknell says he and Phillips have developed a good chemistry that came from years of intense training together.
“Me, Randy, CP [trainer Chris Paul] and Coach Mel [Spence] trained for years together,” he said. “During COVID-19, we spent like a year and a half together working day in, day out, so our chemistry is as good as anyone’s.”
“We know each other’s games, how to play together,” he said. “We spent a lot of time together training, playing a lot of matches, travelling, as Blaise said.
“We’re definitely comfortable on the court with each other.”
They agree that they played a clean game and said the only thing they could see improvement in, which they say would be minor anyway, would be their returns.
Bicknell is in action on Thursday at Centro Deportivo de Tenis’s centre court against Chile’s Tomás Barrios.
Jamaica also picked up its first medal at the Pan Am Games, with cyclist Dahlia Palmer claiming bronze in the women’s Keirin final. She was 0.286 seconds behind the winner, Colombia’s Martha Bayona Pineda, and Mexico’s Luz Daniela Gaxiola Gonzalez (0.273).
Jamaica’s chances of advancing from Group A in women’s football ended on Wednesday with the Reggae Girlz losing 10-0 to Paraguay in Viña del Mar, Chile.
Jessica Martinez scored a hattrick for Paraguay while her teammate Celsa Sandoval had a brace.
This result follows their 7-0 loss to Mexico on Sunday. Their next game is against hosts Chile in Valparaíso on Saturday at 4 pm Jamaica time.
Jamaica’s team of Sabrina Lyn, Leanna Wainwright, Emily MacDonald, and Morgan Marie Cogle, in that order, was fifth in their women’s 4x100m medley relay heat on Wednesday. They finished in 4:27.66 minutes, behind Canada (4:05.19), Mexico (4:13.11), Venezuela (4:13.65), and Cuba (4:18.57). The Bahamas was sixth in 4:34.03.