Preparing to fail

Lennox Francis -
Lennox Francis -

THE EDITOR: Old school teacher dictum: If you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail. Inherent in this saying is you can also prepare to fail.

Not for one moment must we mention covid19, the formulated reason for all our failings.

Out of bounds for those not infected and a workplace treatment station for medical personnel was the National Racquet Centre converted to a refurbishing depot for covid19 victims.

When the Minister of Sport declared non-contact sports back to normal, this should have been the beginning of preparation. Furthermore, when the Tennis Association declared it was going to participate in and made a bid to host Davis Cup 2022 Group IV, the flame should have been ignited.

In TT we have the dry season, the wet season, mango season and tennis season. Why tennis season? Competitions are so few, especially for the “open category” players. The out-of-tennis season allowed our top players to go on sabbatical during which they tried to earn a living from coaching to fill their empty pockets but at the same time allowed their “fitness” to deteriorate to near unhealthy levels.

Bham! The association won the Davis Cup bid and gave six players one week to get ready for a trial to select a national team.

Spain-based Ebolum Nwokolo topped the competition with his powerful play and youthful fitness. Following closely were local “heavyweights” Akeil Duke and Nabeel Mohammed, whose performances were marred by lack of fitness. The bubbly pint-size Luca Shamsi showed that the gruelling three-day trial was routine as he notched up three victories, like Nwokolo.

Those deemed fit to wear the red, white and black were Nwokolo, Duke, Mohammed, Shamsi and the unbeaten, Miami-based Joseph Cadogan, invited as an “automatic selectee.” The battle for promotion began after three weeks of tennis rehab.

For two days I witnessed the injustice of an automatic pick bowing to injury and operating below par. The effort was too casual even when leading, which suggested the activities of the pre-competition phase was sub-standard and too short. Shamsi would have given better, finished and benefitted from the baptism of fire.

The inexperienced Nwokolo, playing as number one, could have had some closer matches, had his assets been better managed. The doubles pair of Duke and Mohammed showed that their three weeks of training did not allow them to constantly achieve the intensity for three sets.

As the week rolled on it was time to reshuffle the team. Duke and Mohammed, playing as numbers two and one, respectively, showed the potential of two inactive amateurs if they were better prepared. Shamsi and the injured Cadogan saved some face in winning the doubles against Nicaragua. By then TT was out of contention for promotion to group three.

At the finish line the host could only finish seventh with new team member Shamsi having three victories from as many tries.

From a distance the team did not give us much to cheer for and the music band hardly got into a rhythm.

There was no home advantage to exploit as from the outset the trial was marred by injuries, defaults and a lukewarm finish. To rub salt in the wound the team was left with three weeks to lose weight where necessary and get physically and match fit, a tall order for recreation players. The coach was unable to learn the strengths and weaknesses of each player and rank them in an effective pecking order.

TT continues to patronise Davis Cup. Over the last five years our teams have barely managed winning four of 15 matches annually.

It was 11 years ago that TT won Group IV in Bolivia with the three-man team of Yohansey Williams, Vaughn Wilson and Liam Gomez, and yours truly as coach.

A repeat is long overdue if we can better prepare ourselves. The mediocre showing of 2022 must never happen again and traded for a victory parade in 2023.


former Davis Cup captain


"Preparing to fail"

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