Tennis Jamaica boss Azar expects Davis Cup fireworks
AZAR...hopefully the crowd will be out in its numbers and I'm certain that they [players] are amped up to play at home (Photo: Observer file)

Tennis Jamaica President John Azar says that the national team is using the return of the Davis Cup as motivation against Estonia this weekend.

The team comprises Jamaica's number one-ranked Blaise Bicknell, Randy Phillips, John Chin (who is Association of Tennis Professionals-ranked), Jacob Bicknell, and Daniel Azar, Jamaica's number one-ranked junior and also a world-ranked junior.

The team is comprised of the same members who advanced to this round, which is a qualification stage for Group 2, in Costa Rica last summer.

This team is Jamaica's first representative in the tournament since 2007 and while that could create added pressure for the players, Azar says he thinks it will have the opposite effect.

"You have guys on our team like Randy, who has been playing the Davis Cup for many years," Azar told the Jamaica Observer. "He's our winningest Davis Cup player at this level and he's never played on home soil.

"Hopefully the crowd will be out in its numbers and I'm certain that they (players) are amped up to play at home."

Some members of Team Estonia have been in Jamaica since last Friday and have been training up to twice a day. Azar says, from what he has seen, they are settling in well.

"The conditions here are gonna be hot," he said. "They're not what they're generally accustomed to playing under. So, they're here and obviously trying to speed up that process of acclimatising to the venue and to the conditions. But I do believe our players still have a significant advantage in that regard."

Azar says the Jamaicans have what he describes as the perfect mix of youth and experience.

"We're picking a team to do very well at this stage today, but also grooming some of our younger players to become the leaders of tomorrow," he said.

Some of the Jamaicans arrived on the island on Wednesday, while others arrive on Friday.

"Even the players who are coming in on Friday [today], which sounds disadvantageous, if you look at the upside, they are playing competitive college matches right up to Thursday, they're going to be coming here match fit and raring to go."

The Eric Bell Tennis Centre in Kingston, which will host the games on Saturday and Sunday, has been renovated for the event and Azar is expecting an audience of around 1,000 spectators. He says it should bring out the best in the team.

"I do know there's always a flip side of added nervousness playing in front of a home crowd, but in speaking to them, I certainly don't expect that," he said. "These guys are professionals. They're accustomed to playing in front of crowds and I think that they're absolutely raring to go," he noted.

Azar says that he is pleased that there were no corrective measures needed to be taken to bring the centre up to the standard required by International Tennis Federation (ITF) officials who are in Jamaica for the tournament.

"I shared a couple of pictures of the venue with people earlier today and they asked me which international event I was attending, and they weren't joking," he said.

"The venue is practically unrecognisable. Stands are in, the security plans are in place. ITF has a lot of requirements you have to meet. The head ITF official came in on Monday and I don't think he had too much to do in terms of corrections. We've met all the checks and balances; we've met all the timelines, so I think all is in place to have a fantastic two-day event come Saturday and Sunday," he concluded.

BY RACHID PARCHMENT Digital sports coordinator

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