Adrian Frater, News Editor
JAMAICA'S Ffion Fletcher and Haiti's Oliver Sarjous will start favourites for the female and male titles when the fourth renewal of the Iberostar Tennis Classic serves off at the Iberostar tennis court in St James this morning at 9:00.
"We are ready and raring to go," said tournament referee Simon Casserly. "We are anticipating a fantastic tournament as we have a combined total of 110 entries, inclusive of several overseas players."
Unlike last year, the tournament, which has attracted a combined sponsorship of $250,000 from main sponsors Marksman Security and Advantage General Insurance, will feature five categories instead of four.
The organisers have added a men's Class I to the schedule, which previously featured the men's Open, men's classes 2 & 3 and ladies' Amateur Open.
"We are keeping a close eye on the weather system associated with Tropical Storm Isaac, so we have adjusted the schedule for the men's singles in the hope of having that section of the tournament completed as early as possible," said Casserly.
"This is the highlight of the tournament so we would like to have it completed ahead of any intervention by the weather," he added.
In today's schedule there will be two segments of the men's singles - first round and round of 16. Depending on the weather, the top eight and semi-finals could take place tomorrow, paving the way for a Saturday afternoon final.
While Sarjous - who won last weekend's Hi-Pro Ace Supercentre Tennis Open in Kingston - is tipped to take home the $100,000 men's singles winner's purse, defending champion Nicholas Malcolm is hell-bent on retaining the title he won over long-time rival Elvis Henry last year.
"I am looking forward to taking the title again this year," said Malcolm. "Last year, I was not the favourite and I won. I am looking forward to doing the same thing again this year."
Fletcher, who surprised favourite Pauline Hylton to win the women's singles title last year, is the overwhelming favourite this time around. She is now on a high after defeating promising American Simone Brown in last weekend's Hi-Pro Ace Supercentre tournament.
"Except for defending Class Two boys' champion Stephen Shirley, who is off the island, all the other defending champions from last year will be on show," said Casserly. "With the large number of overseas entries, the quality should be much higher than in the previous years."