Robert Bailey, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica's top junior tennis player, Andrew Bicknell, has declared that he is fit and ready to lead the country's charge for the Under-18 singles title at this year's International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament, which begins on July 22 at the Eric Bell Tennis Centre.
The 15-year-old Bicknell, who has been in impressive form this year, recently captured the All Jamaica Junior Tennis Under-18 and Under-16 singles at the Eric Bell Tennis Centre.
However, the powerful hitting right-handed player, who will be competing in his first ITF Under-18 singles event, will face strong opposition from players from the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Costa Rica in the championship, declared that it will be hard to win.
"I am ready," said Bicknell. "I have been working very hard, so I am not scared at all. I am just going to go out there to do the best that I can do.
"My fitness level has got a lot higher than it has ever been, and so this should be a big help for me in the tournament," he said.
"I hope to win a couple of rounds, or maybe three rounds, but it is going to be really hard to win the championships. But it is possible," Bicknell said.
Bicknell, who attends Suffield Academy in Connecticut in the United States, is currently participating in the Gore Homes Caribbean JuniorTennis Championships, whichgot under way atthe Liguanea Club, New Kingston, yesterday. The event features players from around the Caribbean.
Bicknell stated that it would fit into his preparation for the ITF tournament.
Bicknell said though it was difficult to win the All Jamaica Junior Tennis title, the accomplishment had boosted his belief in himself. "The All Jamaica Tennis Championships was hard because there were no easy matches because everyone gave me a challenge, so it doesn't matter what the scoreline said, every match was hard," he said.
"It also gave me a lot of confidence because I beat a couple of guys who were 17 going 18 years old. Those guys were stronger. They hit some hard shots, and so it definitely gave me some confidence," Bicknell said.
He pointed out that he was not bothered by the huge amount of pressure that has been placed on him by being Jamaica's top Under-18 singles player for the tournament.
"Since I won the All Jamaica Tournament, there has been a lot more pressure on me, more than the people who didn't win it," he said.
"I have to carry this pressure into the ITF tournament, but I am not worried about it because there is always going to be pressure when you are playing in tournaments this big, especially in your home country," Bicknell said.