Players overcome nerves in Sabals Law Christmas Tennis Hamper

Kishawn Martin keeps his eyes on the ball as he returns a backhand against Eric Joseph 

By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway

Playing before parents and supporters, it wasn’t the atmosphere the six participants in the Long Look Tennis Education Center program were accustomed to, during Saturday’s Sabals Law  Christmas Tennis Hamper.  

They usually go about their business unnoticed during afternoon practices. While they’ve played against each other, adding ‘competition’ to the environment changed the game. 

“I didn’t win how I wanted to win but it was a pretty good match,” Kimathi Wheatley told Island Sun Sports, after a 4-2, 4-1 victory over Courtney Lindsay. “It was pretty hard. He got some good balls, sometimes I tried to bring it back, sometimes I didn’t get it. I think I had a pretty good chance of winning and I think I did pretty good. He was great on his backhand and his forehand and it was a good game overall.

Lindsay said the second game was difficult but didn’t have the energy from some of the matches. “When I had 30 and Kimathi had 40, I tried to move the ball but it went out and he won,” Lindsay noted. “It was decent. He did good and I did good.”

In the second match, Malaika Bowen needed an 8-6 tie breaker to fend off Kamaria Wheatley in their division encounter, after splitting the first two sets. 

“She won the first game and I thought I was going to lose, then my Mom spoke to me and told me don’t give up, just keep fighting and that’s what I did,” Bowen said. “After leading 4-1 in the tie breaker, I kind of let myself down and that’s what gave her the comeback and then I came back to win it.”

Bowen told Island Sun Sports that she felt sad when Wheatley tied the games at 6-6 and thought she wasn’t going to be the champion and win the basket. 

“I was like, I can’t give up so easy I have to fight for it and I fought for it,” she said.

Wheatley said that she was extremely nervous even before the match and started crying—something that often happens when she’s nervous. Before the boys’ game ended, she went to warmup and by time their game was ready, her heart was pounding as if it was in her throat. 

“Then I won the first game, I didn’t show any facial expressions, but I was happy that I won,” she said. “Even though I lost the second set, I just felt determined to keep on going. In the tie breaker, I had given up when she was up 4-1. I almost started to cry and my Grandma came up to me and told me that it’s not finished yet and you can still win. Even if you don’t win, you’re still a winner and my coach told me it’s not over till it’s over.”

Wheatley said when Bowen tied the games at 6-6, she was relieved though she wanted to win the first place hamper, but even if she didn’t she’d still be happy with herself, because she felt that she did an amazing job.

“Even though I lost the last two points, I had emotions because I was telling myself this is the best match I’ve ever played and I lost by two points,” she noted. “I’ll just keep on training until the next tournament and maybe, I’ll win.”  

Favored Kshawn Martin bested Eric Joseph—who led in the first game, using a series of drop shots—before getting a 4-3 and 4-0 victory, in the final game.  

“I was nervous because there were a lot of people and my father was watching,” Martin said, noting the Joseph who he regularly plays, employed a series of drop shot. “He doesn’t normally do that, but did it in the tournament. I was focused in the second set but I wasn’t that focused in the first set—because my father and everyone was watching and I was nervous.”

Joseph said the match was very competitive. He said he changed his game and was nervous. 

“In the second set, I changed up the play and I had a headache. I was trying to fight back,” he said. “Kishawn didn’t like when I was doing drop shots and I would win the point.”

Joseph said he didn’t employ more drop shots because he was “too nervous.” 

Coach and tournament director Carol Mitchell was happy with the event.

“The tournament was exceptionally good because despite our challenges, we had six youths who were willing to test their skills,” she told Island Sun Sports. “I am very appreciative of their parents because without them, there’ll be no tournament.”