Daniel Azar proud of work to get into Davis Cup team
YOUNG DANIEL Azar goes into this weekend’s Davis Cup Tennis Group II playoff tie against Estonia as the youngest member of Jamaica’s five-man team.
The 17-year-old, who has been one of the top performers at the prestigious Saddlebrook Tennis Academy in Tampa, Florida, this year, said that it’s only through hard work that he has qualified for his third Davis Cup team at his age.
“Going to school, we work, on average, upwards of five hours per day on court, as well as working in the gym on our fitness.
“The (Saddlebrook) programme is a tough one, but there is no substitute for hard work and I am definitely seeing the results, which encourages me to keep working.
“I have great coaches and they are happy with the progress I have made over the past year and I will continue to push, knowing that it is a process and once I continue to improve, then the results will continue to come.
“It’s tough but I love what I am doing, so in that sense, it is easy,” he told The Gleaner.
The young Azar is now excited at the prospect of a third Davis Cup in two years.
“There is something super special about the team atmosphere that Davis Cup creates and there is no greater feeling as an athlete than representing your country.
“We have a great group of guys and the makeup of this team is similar to the teams I travelled with last year.
“I am both honoured and humbled to be a part of this and hopefully we can continue to build together and go from strength to strength,” he said.
“I will continue to learn from the senior guys and will just stay ready to assist the team in whatever way I can.”
Saddlebrook’s director of coaching, Alvaro Bentancur, who has worked with some of the top professionals to play the sport, was full of praise for the young Jamaican’s work ethic and rapid progress.
“Daniel played excellent tennis in the pre-qualifying tournament for the Saddlebrook Resort Men’s US$25,000 Pro Circuit event last week, playing a very big game with a big forehand and serve.
“Daniel has been really working on playing his game and playing to win. He has added a lot of power off the ground and has worked hard in the gym to increase his strength and flexibility. He’s going to continue improving and all of the coaches at Saddlebrook are looking forward to him playing many events and having a strong semester,” he commented.
Director of tennis at Saddlebrook, Sean Mcquillan, was equally impressed with his poise and professionalism.
“He represents himself in a very professional manner around campus and on the court. Daniel fought hard and proved that he is capable of competing at a high level and he represented himself, Jamaica and Saddlebrook Tennis Academy well. We are all very proud of him and look forward to his continued success,” he said.
Jamaica will face off against Estonia at the Eric Bell National Tennis Centre from February 4-5.
The other members of the team are Blaise Bicknell, Randy Philips, Jacob Bicknell and John Chin.
The team captain/coach is Mel Spence. It will be the first time since 2007 that a Davis Cup tie will be hosted on local soil.