Team Captain Spence showers brave Davis Cup players with praise
Jamaica's Davis Cup Captain Mel Spence (right) passes on pointers to the country's players John Chin (left) and Blaise Bicknell during a training session at the Central American and Caribbean Games in San Salvador, El Salvador, in June. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

DESPITE suffering a 4-0 defeat to hosts Lebanon in their Davis Cup Group Two tie, Mel Spence, captain of Jamaica's team, has praised the country's players for the courage and resilience they showed, despite playing through illnesses during the championships.

The country's top players, Blaise Bicknell and Rowland "Randy" Phillips, both sufferied from food poisoning prior to the start of the championships on Friday.

The Jamaicans trailed the Lebanese 2-0 entering Saturday's doubles match, after Bicknell and Phillips had lost their singles matches to Hady Habib and Benjamin Hassan, respectively. The Lebanese wrapped up the best-of-five series tie Saturday after Habib and Benjamin defeated Bicknell and Phillips 2-6, 6-3, 3-6.

However, Spence told the Jamaica Observer that Bicknell had to receive IV (intravenous) fluids prior to the start of Saturday's doubles match, and Phillips was not a "hundred per cent" fit, but they still went out and fought all the way to the line.

"Blasie had a setback yesterday [Friday] because he was dehydrated, he was vomiting, and he had diarrhoea. He was on IV on Friday night and he was on IV until half an hour before his doubles match, so I am elated that he came out and played the way that he played in the doubles," said Spence.

"He and Randy played absolutely amazingly and they fought very hard, and I am overjoyed that they fought tooth and nail. This was absolutely a very brave performance from these guys and I am sure I could not have asked for more from them despite the circumstances under which they were playing, because our guys were playing with illnesses.

"They lost the first set in the doubles because both had low energy and, as you know, Randy was also suffering from some illness as well. But they got some momentum and they won the second set... they both fought hard in the third set but it was not enough — but I am still super proud of them," Spence stated.

In the fourth match of the tie, Daniel Azar, the son of Tennis Jamaica President John Azar, was beaten by Lebanon's Mustapha Natour 3-6, 1-6. The Jamaicans have now been demoted to Group Two play-off competition, which will be contested next year.

Spence shared that the future of Jamaica's tennis is in good hands because these players have proven that they can compete with some of the best in the world.

"I think that Blaise would have performed a lot better in this tie if it wasn't for food poisoning because he was up 4-2 in the first set of his singles and so I know that we are right up [there] with these guys — and these are guys that are ranked two hundred in the world and they are playing at a very high level in world tennis," he said.

"I think that the big takeaway for me is that, despite losing, I think that we are better than this level and there is so much upsight for this team and especially these two guys [Blaise and Phillips]. I think that Blaise, in particular, has been playing at this level for the last eight weeks and he has been doing exceptionally well. I think that once Randy plays more tournaments then he will do well at this level," he said.

The other members of the Jamaican team are John Chin and David Goldsmith.

Robert Bailey

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