Leroy Brown, Gleaner Writer
After being on the brink of defeat, Jamaica's No. 1 rated male tennis player, Damion Johnson, produced a rearguard action at Liguanea Club on Saturday night to turn the tables on his most formidable local rival, Dominic Pagon, and successfully defend his Jamaica National Open tennis title, winning 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in a tense final that had the fair-sized crown enthralled throughout.
In the female section of the draw, Tinesta Rowe made a successful return to competitive tennis with an easy 6-0, 6-1 victory over Shelita Haughton.
The match of the tournament - in its fifth year and attracting 130 entrants - was the clash of the No. 1 seeded Johnson, who won the title last year, and No. 2 seeded Pagon, who won the title in 2011.
Pagon played impeccable tennis to take the first set. Using a lethal top-spin serve, backed by a forehand that rarely missed and deft drop shots, he mastered his rival in the first set.
His mastery continued in the second set as he stormed to a 4-1 lead and seemed ready to cruise to an easy victory and the top prize of $150, 000. However, Pagon's service and game suddenly fell apart. Serving to go up 5-1, he was broken by the dogged Johnson, who eventually took the score to 5-4 before Pagon won another game. Johnson then held for 6-5 with an easy service game and broke his opponent once more to win the second set 7-5.
He did not have much trouble after that, as Pagon literally fell apart. He said afterwards that he could not give an answer for the sudden reversal in the second set, while Johnson credited his victory to belief in himself and not giving up despite the odds.
Rowe was very pleased with her victory and pledged to find more time from her coaching duties to get involved in more competitions in 2014.
In the other singles, Joseph Dibbs defeated an error prone Leighton Burton to win the men's Class Two title 7-6 (6), 6-3 and Alvin Wint defeated Norman Marshall 6-4, 7-6 (1) to take the men's Class Three title. Donovan Crumbie from G.C. Foster College defeated Daniel Gyles from the University of Technology 6-3, 7-6 to be the first winner of the new Intercol title, which tournament organiser Lockett McGregor said was introduced to encourage tennis at the tertiary level.
Ricardo Dystant, JNBS' group manager, and Michael Collins from the JNBS sales development and training department, told The Gleaner they were very pleased with the way the tournament was run, the increased number of entrants and quality of the participants.