Robert Bailey, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica's top juniors will face off when the PanCaribbean All-Jamaica Junior Tennis Championships serves off at 9 a.m. today at the Eric Bell Tennis Centre.
More than 150 players from across the island will take part in the event, which will feature under 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18s in singles and doubles competition.
Headlining the event will be Under-18 top gun Andrew Bicknell, who was beaten by Daniel Harris in last year's final. He will be joined by Horatio Ludford, William Berry and Jovaughn Mullings.
On the girls' side, last year's Under-16 winner, Michaelann Denton, is the firm favourite to capture this year's title. Denton is expected to receive strong competition from Maya Ricketts, Shellita Haughton and Shaddae Findlay.
Ten-year-old Blaise Bicknell, who won the Under-12 singles last year and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Under-14 singles Championships in The Bahamas last Wednesday, is expected to dominate the junior categories.
Blaise, who also captured the ITF IVES Summer Tennis Series in Miami, Florida, on Sunday, is expected to also play against the Under-16s in singles and should face stiff competition from his brother Jacob, cousin Andrew, along with James Cruze, Rushane Allen and William Berry.
In the girls' equivalent, Shea-Ann Kameka, Denton, Maya Ricketts and Shadea Nickle are among the main contenders vying for the title.
Prepare top juniors
The tournament will also serve to prepare top juniors for Tennis Jamaica's annual international junior event, the ITF Jamaica Junior Championships, which will be held at the same venue from July 17-24.
This tournament will feature competitors from all over the world and gives Jamaica's top Under-18 players the opportunity to gain ITF junior world-ranking points.
Meanwhile, title sponsors PanCaribbean have pumped $1.6 million into this year's championships.
John Bailey, president of the Tennis Jamaica, said he is expecting an exciting tournament.
"We expect a high level of play," said Bailey.
"We have some young, fantastic juniors coming up and we are looking forward to their competitive exposure here in Jamaica, because many of them go away to play overseas," Bailey said.