Powerful junior player Alex Leonard built on an impressive performance in the Cayman Islands Tennis Club closed championships with a convincing win over arch rival Marc Reid in the latest PricewaterhouseCoopers junior circuit tournament.
Leonard, 17, who is in England representing Cayman at the Island Games this week on the Isle of Man, cruised comfortably past Reid with a 6-2, 6-2 victory in the PwC tournament final, sweet revenge for having lost two sets to one in their previous encounter in May.
The Cayman Prep student is now arguably not only the island’s top junior, but has graduated to the top echelon of Cayman’s leading senior players. “Alex’s win over Marc comes down to confidence,” said Rob Seward, head coach and manager at the Tennis Club in South Sound.
”He played in the club championship and got to the final, having beaten some good players along the way, including Nikhil Jha and Eamon Wilson. Wilson won the championship last year, so that gives you an idea of his calibre.
“The difference in Alex’s play now is really obvious: his serve and forehand have both improved in the last month. Confidence is so important, it’s all about momentum.”
Morgan Hayward, the 2010 junior champion in the 17-and-under division, and Luca Polloni were the losing semi-finalists in this age group in the 3-4 June PwC tournament, held at the club.
Simon Butler, who has for the past 12 months been snapping at the heels of Daniel Reid, the top-ranked player in the 14-and-under division, proved his mettle in the tournament by serving up a convincing 6-2, 6-1 win over top-seeded Reid.
The performance of Butler, the number two seed, cements the impression that the rivalry between the two will intensify as the 2011 junior circuit progresses. Butler, 13, also now towers over Reid, 12, but Reid’s impressive concentration and consistency should not be underestimated.
Other notable performances in the 14-and-under contest were turned in by 10-year-olds Nico Polloni and Callum Theaker, both of whom also played in the 11-and-under division.
Theaker failed by the narrowest of margins to beat Matteo Polloni in their quarter-final, losing out in a tie-break. And Nico Polloni made it to the semis, where he went out in two sets to Butler .
Seward was full of praise for Matteo Polloni, 12. He said: “Matteo had a good tournament. As his coaches, Dale Avery and I were proud of him. He had a tough match against Daniel Reid in the semis but he kept his head and remained calm and collected. We’re very happy with his play. It seems like he’s matured.”
Nico Polloni yet again emerged triumphant in the 11-and-under division, beating Theaker in the final. But as the 6-2, 7-6 score suggests, Polloni came close to losing the second set to the ever-improving Theaker.
Altogether, the level of play and the number of entrants in the 11-and-under division shows great promise for the future of tennis in Grand Cayman, noted Seward.
“This age group is very exciting for me, Adam Bayley and Dale Avery (the club pros). Nico and Callum lead the pack, but there are many other youngsters who are playing a lot and improving all the time, including Angus Callan-Smith, John-Ross and Harrison Clough, Neildeep Ghosh, Kabir Chandi, Reese Hoeksema, Ben Black, James Priaulx.
“We feel we are finally getting closer to that critical mass of strong players of the same age, where a healthy rivalry will keep them interested and keep them improving as they move into their teens. That’s our objective, to step up the numbers of good juniors we’re producing and with this group we’re hopeful of achieving that.
“For the more immediate future, one of our goals is to get more juniors playing in overseas tournaments. We’re working on that. ”
The PricewaterhouseCoopers junior tennis circuit is run under the aegis of the Cayman Islands Tennis Federation, with the help and support of local tennis pros.