Jamaica overturn 25-year Group II hoodoo
Estonia’s Kristjan Tamm defaults to give island crucial Davis Cup win
JAMAICA SECURED their place in Group II of the Davis Cup with a 3-2 win over Estonia at the Eric Bell National Tennis Centre yesterday.
Jamaica’s number one seed, Blaise Bicknell, consolidated Jamaica’s place in Group II for the first time in 25 years after victory by default over Kristjan Tamm in the first of two reverse singles.
Bicknell, who broke Tamm early in the first set but quickly returned the set to on serve after three double faults, made few mistakes on his serve to stay in the game right up until 6-6.
The tie-breaker started much the same way as the early part of the set, with Bicknell earning two mini-breaks to lead 3-0.
Tamm would not go away, though, breaking back twice to leave the tie-break poised on a knife’s edge at 3-3.
However, the University of Tennessee player showed his resolve to keep Tamm at bay and take the tiebreaker 9-7 and the set 7-6.
But then came the moment Tamm must have wished he could take back. After watching his sliced return hit the top of the tape and fall harmlessly back on his side of the court, he flung his racquet in disgust, only to see an official checking his shin for damage. The result, Tamm would lose by automatic default.
“This is amazing. It is our first time in 20 years. This is history for Jamaican tennis. I knew I was going to win that match. I had momentum going into that second set, and with the crowd and team behind me it is a fantastic feeling to get the job done,” Blaise Bicknell said.
The player admitted that he was not at his best physically but said that mentally, he was prepared for anything.
“No (I wasn’t a 100 per cent), but I competed and fought at a 100 per cent. That is more important than how I played. I may not have played my best last night (Saturday), but that (win) was a crucial point for Jamaica and almost decided the tie. Estonia were the favourites, so it is a shock to a lot of people that Jamaica have come away with the win,” he continued.
“We have been trying for years to get to this. We lost in El Salvador three years ago. We lost in Greece last year and went back down to Group III, got promoted and here we are promoted again. So it is just history, and it’s incredible. For the last few months, my focus has been Davis Cup, so this takes a load off my shoulders, and I am happy with how I played under the pressure.”
The Jamaican team came into yesterday with a 2-0 advantage, following Rowland ‘Randy’ Phillips’ 2-0 win over Tamm (6-1, 6-1) the day before and Blaise Bicknell’s 2-1 victory over Kenneth Raisma (4-6, 6-4, 6-0).
However, Jamaica started the day on a losing note, with Raisma and Jurgen Zopp defeating John Chin and Daniel Azar 6-1, 6-2 in the doubles event.
Blaise Bicknell then got the better of the Estonian number one to seal the deal before Jacob Bicknell lost 6-1, 6-0 to Johannes Seeman in the last reverse single, which was only of academic interest.
Phillips, who was superb in the opening game against Tamm on Saturday, said it was great accomplishing their dream in front of an appreciative home crowd.
“It is an amazing feeling. We have been to these playoffs three times and haven’t won, and it is a great feeling to go through on Jamaican soil. The crowd was the deciding factor. We felt their energy, and it is so much fun with the Jamaican people supporting us. It could not have been any better,” he said.
Tennis Jamaica president, John Azar hopes that a generation of tennis players was inspired by the event. He also believes the team will represent well when they make the step up.
“This is a good team with a good balance. It is a very solid team, and we feel good about where we are. These guys have excellent chemistry. They will keep working, and I certainly like what I see,” he said.
Team captain Mel Spence said Jamaica were deserving of the victory.
“We’ve put in a lot of hard work and we deserve to be in the position we are in. Randy was incredible. Blaise didn’t play his best tennis but fought very well. It is the first we have been to Group II for 25 years, and it is just awesome. The spotlight is now on us and it is for us to push on,” he said.