Johnson, Kepple claim national titles
Leighton Levy, Gleaner Writer
Damion Johnson and Phadria Kepple crowned themselves singles champions at the Hi-Pro All Jamaica Tennis Championships that came to an end at the Liguanea Club, New Kingston, on Saturday night.
Kepple saw off a spirited challenge from Selena Blythe, winning 6-4, 6-3.
Johnson, the number-one seed, topped the number-two seed Daniel Harris by the same score, 6-4, 6-3, to claim the title and the $150,000 first-prize.
Harris, 19, is a mechanical engineering student at the University of Philadelphia, who is considered one of Jamaica's bright future prospects.
The number-one seed played deep behind the baseline to blunt the power of the hard-hitting collegian, and the strategy proved successful, as it forced Harris into a number of unforced errors. Those, along with cleverly crafted winners from Johnson, combined to hand the champion victory.
"He is the younger one, and he came out and played some good tennis, and I am proud of him as a coach and as his hitting partner. But what made the difference was that I decided first to dictate the points, and that went in my favour," said Johnson.
He added: "... I also wanted to break him down, so I could step in and take my shots on the short ball.
"He is an attacking player. He likes to hit the ball hard and be aggressive, so what I did was to stay back and play good defence, that way I could open up the court and step in and take charge whenever it was possible."
A disappointed Harris concurred.
"I didn't hold my serve as I should have, and I had a bunch of opportunities to break his serve, but it was match experience; I did the wrong things, that's why I lost," he said. "I was trying to press him on purpose because he is so quick; it's difficult to stay in the points with him, but I was going for too much in certain scenarios."
Kepple, a third-year medical student at the University of the West Indies, Mona, won an error-filled match that saw a combined 15 service breaks and multiple double faults from both players.
"I am not happy with how I played," said Kepple. "I could have played better, but I was tired; I was studying, I had exams, so it was hard for me to play my strokes right and to get my serves in.
"I had a number of faults, but I am happy that I could pull through," she added.