More than $700,000 in prize money will be up for grabs when the 2016 General Accident Insurance Company tennis tournament serves off tomorrow at the Liguanea Club in New Kingston. The tournament will end on Sunday, April 10.This tournament will be part of the Llockett McGregor tennis series, and for the first time, it will be an Open tournament, with prize money attached. There will be Men’s and Women’s Open, Men’s Professional 35 for older players, and a Men’s Class 2 team event that will feature teams from Oaklands, Police Officers Club, Montego Bay, the Pegasus and Ocho Rios, and a special Liguanea Club doubles championship. Sixteen junior doubles teams will also participate.The whole idea, McGregor told The Gleaner, is to make the tournament more attractive to various groups of players, many of whom will participate so as to gain bragging rights among their colleagues, over the next year.At the launch of the tournament on Wednesday at the Liguanea Club, General Accident’s business development officer, Nadia Mitchell, lauded the organisers of the tournament and pointed to the fact that each year, the tournament was well supported by players and spectators. One hundred and fifteen players are expected to participate this year.Her company’s vision, Mitchell said, “goes way beyond the tennis courts because each year, this prestigious event brings together world-class players, and tennis enthusiasts” and this she said, “bolsters personal development of the youth players in particular, and creates the opportunity for individuals to engage in a diverse community centred activity.”The top-seeded male player is Damion Johnson, a former Jamaica No. 1 player. Current female champion Ffion Fletcher is the top female in the line-up, and in the Men’s 35, Dwayne Pagon, a former Davis Cup captain is the top seed.
Undoubtedly, the most popular athlete on Saturday night at the Jamaica International Invitational meet was former 100 metres world record holder Asafa Powell. The man with the most sub-10 clockings in history, despite not winning a major individual title in his illustrious career, continues to be very popular among the local crowd, and this was evident once again as thousands of fans, especially the females, showed their admiration for the man who, in the last decade, put Jamaica back on the map in the 100 metres. When the athletes’ names were announced for the men’s 200 metres, there was a large roar from the crowd when Powell’s name was mentioned. The noise got much louder when the big television screen at the National Stadium showed Powell striding out. The defending champion in the 100 metres, Powell did not compete in that event, but instead, the half-lap. With the likes of Commonwealth champion Rasheed Dwyer in the line-up, many did not give the ‘big man’ a chance to win as this was his first 200m appearance on local soil in five years. Using his 100 metres speed to good effect, Powell got out of the blocks very fast, much to the delight of his fans, who cheered wildly as he took a clear lead. Coming off the curve in first place, he held his form well, and despite slowing down a bit towards the end, held on for the win in 20.45 seconds, much to the delight of his fans, who went into wild celebration as they stood for several minutes. After his post-race interview, Powell went to greet his fans in the bleachers. The atmosphere was unbelievable as the women showed their love by rubbing his head and holding his hands as most of the fans there were not interested in the event on the track at the time – the women’s 400 metres. Powell said he is thinking of doubling up at the National Trials. “I felt very comfortable before the race and I felt good especially in the first 150 metres, but towards the latter stages, I felt a bit tired and I dropped my knees a bit due to lactic acid as I had worked hard all week leading up to the event. But I just wanted to win before by supportive fans,” said Powell. Asked how he felt, given that he has not been running the event on a consistent basis, Powell said: “Honestly, I don’t remember how to run the 200 metres, but it is a work in progress and, hopefully, by national senior trials, I will get there.” Commenting on doubling, he said: “Time is running out now, and I have been concentrating on the 100 metres for years and most of the other sprinters have been doubling and I will be doing both at trials.” He stated that beating Dwyer had motivated him to do so. “I was not focusing on anyone in the race, but I was aware that Rasheed was in the race and I have a lot of respect for him as I know he is a tough competitor, and to get the win over him has really boosted my confidence in doing the event.” OUT OF THE BLOCKS QUICKLY read more