Anthony Minott, Gleaner Writer
It is all systems go for the inaugural National Commercial Bank (NCB) Capital Markets Tennis Open that is set to serve off at the Liguanea Club in New Kingston on Wednesday.
On Friday night, as part of a promotional drive for the tournament, the title sponsors put on a 'street tennis' event at the NCB car park in New Kingston, where some of the players entered for the tournament played in short exhibition matches - singles, doubles and mixed doubles - to an appreciative crowd.
Julian Patrick, sponsorship and promotions manager, NCB Jamaica Limited, noted the reason for its significant contribution to the upcoming Open.
He said through its Capital Markets brand, they "wanted to create a tennis tournament that is comparable in terms of quality, look and feel to any tournament in the world; that was our first objective. Our second objective was to bring tennis to the general public.
"We wanted to give Tennis Jamaica a shot in the arm, we really don't see why Jamaica can't be a top sporting destination. We have the climate, we have the terrain and the infrastructure, we have a perfect mix."
He added: "We want to on a broader level diversify Jamaica's sporting and tourism offerings to the world. We align the quality of the tournament with the quality of the performers, that is itinerant with the NCB Capital Markets as the number-one investment company in Jamaica aligned to NCB, the number-one bank in Jamaica."
Patrick further explained that NCB wanted to attract the best players around the world so that our local players will be able to play against the best and garner much-needed experience at the highest level.
NCB has partnered with Jamaica Broilers, The Gleaner, TvJ, ATL Autohaus and Jamaica Spring to sponsor the event, which is said to be the biggest in terms of prize money for the region. It will run from November 16-20.
The title sponsors have put US$20,000 on the table for total prize money. The top prize for the men's title will be US$6,000, while the runner-up will pocket US$2,250. Players will get US$1,000 each for reaching the semis and US$500 for reaching the quarters.
On the women's side, the first-prize winner should receive US$1,000. However, that is if the tournament receives at least eight female players of a satisfactory calibre. If not, it is possible that the tournament could be scrapped in favour of a doubles event.
The tournament has attracted the top local-based players, including Dominic Pagon, Dwayne Pagon and Damion Johnson, as well as Haiti's top-ranked player Oliver Sajous, who is ranked 512 in the world, George Jecminek of Canada, Barbados' Darien King, doubles partner of local-boy Brandon Burke and his compatriot Haydn Lewis. The biggest name on the women's side is Belgium's 11th-ranked player, 20-year-old Machela Boev. She should get stiff competition from the fleet-footed Simone Vranov-Brown, a Jamaican-born player based in the USA.
Last year's champion, Devlin Mullings, will not be able to defend his title due to a recent surgery.