TOP PHOTO: Darian King taps one by Jesse Witten in an exhibition on Saturday. – Photos: Matt Lamers

Hundreds of spectators packed into the Cayman Islands Tennis Club to watch Daiki Yoshimura defeat Tyler Zink in the final match of the ITF tournament on Saturday evening.

It was the biggest-ever crowd at the club and the first time local tennis matches were broadcast live on TV across Cayman.

Tenth-seeded Yoshimura powered his way to a 6-1, 6-0 win over top-seed Zink.

Zink is ranked 465 in the world. Yoshimura is 1,350. It was the biggest-ever crowd at the club and the first time local tennis matches were broadcast live on TV across Cayman.

Japanese Daiki Yoshimura hits a winner by Tyler Zink on his way to the ITF tournament championship Saturday night.
Japanese Daiki Yoshimura hits a winner by Tyler Zink on his way to the ITF tournament championship Saturday night.

The match followed a highly entertaining exhibition between Jesse Witten and Darian King.

Witten reached the round of 16 in the 2009 U.S. Open, losing to Novak Djokovic, and King is the top-ranked Caribbean player in the world at 120.

“I played well today and the crowd kind of helped me out. Hard luck to Jesse and I wish him luck in the future and congratulations to me,” King said after the game in jest.

The evening capped off the second annual Cayman Cup ITF Tennis Championships, which brought more than 200 Under-18, U-14 and Senior ITF players from 29 countries to Cayman.

Most of the players are now headed to the next stop in the Caribbean International Tennis Federation circuit, the Jamaica Cup, which kicks off Monday.

“This being our second year, it’s much better attended,” said Rob Seward, manager of Cayman Islands Tennis Club and assistant tournament director. “The Cayman Islands Tennis Club is ecstatic that we get to host an event like this for Cayman. We get to bring in about 400 people to the island during the non-busy season, which is fantastic for the island and businesses.”

Next year Seward and tournament Director Karl Hale said they hope to grow the event to an ITF Grade 4 tournament, which would bring even more people to Cayman.

On Friday, an upset was recorded in the girls ITF Junior Circuit final when unseeded American Sanyukta Gawande defeated top-seed Savannah Williams in straight sets. Gawande knocked off second-seed Catherine Broerman in the semifinal earlier in the week.

Jesse Witten smashes one by Darian King in an exhibition match.
Jesse Witten smashes one by Darian King in an exhibition match.

It was the first time the composed 15-year-old had competed in Cayman.

“I try to prepare for every match like it’s the same,” she said, adding, “it was really fun playing here.”

Thirty girls competed from 14 countries in the main draw.

Cayman-based players Jade Wilkinson and Lauren Fullerton lost in the first round.

Four players from Cayman competed in the ITF Junior Circuit. Although all were eliminated early, Seward said the Cayman Cup and Caribbean ITF circuit are integral to fostering local talent.

“This tournament is a major help for Cayman kids to develop,” he said. “Cayman’s great. We can play all year round, which is fantastic for them, but the problem Cayman has is the number of people we have. The pool of tennis players is going to be smaller, so any tournament that these guys get to go to and participate against other kids is huge for their development.”

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Cayman-based Callum Theaker scored a significant accomplishment in picking up his first ITF ranking point by winning a couple of rounds in doubles play. He partnered up with Jamaica-based Blaise Bicknell.

ITF ranking points can allow players to skip qualifying and go straight to a main draw.

Eleven boys and two girls from Cayman competed in the Under-14 portion of the tournament, with Jake Booker finishing second in the category.

“This tournament is all about youth development on the island,” said tournament Director Hale.

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