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Williams confirmed for ‘Tennis Pon de Rock’


By Alan Harris

MORE tennis, cheaper tickets and a star-studded line-up.

That’s what in store for Barbados when the 2011 edition of ‘Tennis Pon de Rock’ serves off at the exclusive Sugar Hill Tennis Resort and Wildey Gymnasium in a couple of weeks’ times.

Following the success of the 2009 exhibition, which featured current world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, two of the of the world’s most dominant female stars - former world No.1 Venus Williams and current world No.3 Victoria Azarenka - have been confirmed for the December 10th and 11th event.

Joining them will be flamboyant Frenchman and world No.7 Gael Monfils, along with hard-hitting American and world No.18 John Isner.

“It will be four times the amount of action with twice the amount of players,” said Kodi Lewis, director of the non-profit Barbados Invitational Tennis Exhibition (B.I.T.E), organisers of the two-day extravaganza.
He was speaking yesterday during the official launch at the Sugar Hill Resort.

"This year we wanted to increase the appeal of the event which is being built into one of the most exciting sporting events on the national calendar. B.I.T.E, in conjunction with the Barbados Tennis Association, also remains committed to ensuring the development of Barbados’ children through sports, especially tennis. It is our goal to open the doors of opportunity for all children and what better way to do so, than through the sport we love, tennis.”

In a change to the format and much in keeping with major international tournaments, this year’s ‘Tennis Pon de Rock’ will get underway on Friday, December 9th with an exclusive Player’s Party at the Limegrove Lifestyle Centre.

On Saturday, December 10th, the grass-courts of the Sugar Hill Tennis Resort will play host to a doubles and mixed-doubles exhibition, which will be immediately followed by a premium cocktail party hosted by the four international players.

Before the exhibition starts at 2p.m. in Porters, St. James, the quartet will be involved in a Fantasy Camp for junior players at the National Tennis Center in Wildey.

On Sunday, December 11th, action moves to the Sir Garfield Sobers Sports Complex with two singles matches, both consisting of two sets and a ten point tie-breaker if necessary.

Also new this year will be a family-oriented Tennis Village with numerous stalls and games, including mini-tennis and road tennis.

The Tennis Village will open at 1p.m., two hours before the scheduled start of play, and will remain open after the matches are complete.

Price of tickets range from as little as $75 right up to $250 for VIP court-side(inclusive of premium bar), while $450 will get you in to the event at the Sugar Hill Tennis Resort.

In related news, a big taking point has been the recent international reports surrounding the ill-health of Venus Williams, older sister of 13-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams, who, coincidentally, was a part of the inaugural ‘Tennis Pon de Rock’ series in 2009.

Venus, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, had to withdraw from this year’s US Open after being diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease.

“I have spoken to Venus herself, I have spoken to her manger and I have had discussions with her doctors to get her full prescription for her specific autoimmune disease. In a short answer, yes, she will be fit,” Lewis said in response to questions about Williams’ health.

"She is back on the court as we speak and she is very much looking forward to coming as well.”

As for the other players in the line-up, 22 year-old Belarusian Victoria Azarenka just recently achieved her career-high world ranking of No.3 on September 12th. She is a committed player who has great court-coverage and incredible finesse.

Besides his eccentric hairstyles, twenty-five year old Gael Monfils is best known for his athleticism and never-say-die attitude, earning him the nickname ‘Tennis Acrobat’.

Rounding out the four is twenty-six year old John Isner, a world record holder.

His first round victory over Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010 was the longest professional tennis match ever played. Isner won the match 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(9-7), 6-7(7-3), 68-70. It lasted 11 hours and five minutes and was played over the course of three days.

Besides online ticket outlet iTickets and select Cave Shepherd locations(Sunset Crest, Broad Street and Rendezvous), box offices are yet to be confirmed.

Tickets are expected to go on sale in the coming weeks.

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