Written by: Brandon Burke
***Brandon Burke is the son of ACE Tennis President and former ATP player Doug Burke. The 19-year-old attends Brown University with Soufiane Azargui, where they play #1 doubles. Brandon, who has a Canadian passport, recently led Jamaica’s Davis Cup team in the America’s zone 3 Davis Cup matches. Here is his report.***
Although the desired result was not ultimately achieved, the bonds created, the team unity formed, the feeling of hard work and achievement, and the sense of knowing that we had done our country proud, were together enough to create for a successful week and shared feeling of contentment. We knew that we had given it our best shot, and although that may not have been enough to make us advance to group 2, it was enough to enable us to come back home with our heads held high. In a week full of ups and downs, we had been what we knew and repeatedly reminded ourselves that we need to be, resilient.
The Americas Zone group 3 Davis Cup tie was being held in Trinidad and Tobago. Including Jamaica 10 teams competed. The format consisted of two separate groups of 5 teams, of which the two “best” teams from each group would advance in to the semifinals. There they would compete for the two coveted advancement spots. The draws were made on Sunday night and Group 1 (our group) consisted of Panama, U.S. Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Bahamas. Group 2 consisted of Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba and the two eventual champions, Guatemala and Haiti. We were scheduled to play against Costa Rica on Monday morning, and spent the rest of Sunday preparing ourselves for battle. We ate dinner, hydrated and got an early night.
Matches began at 10am on Monday morning with Domonic Pagon, Jamaica’s #2 player, against Pablo Nunez, Cost Rica’s #2 player. Domonic lost a hard fought battle 6-4, 7-5 after leading 4-1 in the second set, which left Jamaica down 1-0 in matches. I then played against Costa Rica’s #1 player Juan Rocha, and lost 6-3, 6-3. I did not play my best and had not adjusted to the conditions as quickly as I had hoped, but was able to recover for a 6-2, 6-0 victory in doubles. Although this meant that Jamaica had lost the overall tie 2 matches to 1, the doubles point that we won would still prove important in the long run. If there was a tie in group standings at the end of the week (which there ended up being) it would come down to total matches won by each team.
Throughout the rest of the week we competed against, and beat, the remaining 3 teams in our group. Against Bahamas we were tied at 1 all in matches, and it came down to a grueling doubles match to decide the tie. Me and my partner Domonic were down 3-1 in the third set in doubles, but were able to come back and win 5 straight games for an eventual 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 victory. On day three we swept U.S. Virgin Islands 3-0 in matches, and on the final day of group competition we beat Panama 2-1. Against Panama Domonic lost his singles, but I was able to win mine 6-2, 7-6. We then teamed up to win doubles 6-2, 6-0, and take the overall tie 2 matches to 1.
Meanwhile, Bahamas swept Costa Rica 3-0 in matches, forcing 3 teams in our group (Jamaica, Bahamas, and Costa Rica) into a dead tie with an overall 3 wins and 1 loss each. The ITF rulebook states that in these cases the teams that advance are decided firstly by order of which team has won the most outright matches, and then if needs be, by which team has won the most overall sets throughout the 4 matches that they had played. Bahamas had won 9 matches and both Costa Rica and Jamaica had won 8. Bahamas therefore went through as the top team in our group. To decide between Costa Rica and Jamaica officials had to look at the number of sets won by each team. After almost an hour of calculation it was revealed that Jamaica fell short by just one set. Costa Rica had won 17 sets and Jamaica had won 16.
To say that it wasn’t a tough pill to swallow would be far from the truth. Often times from my experience it is initially easier to accept a loss when your opponent, or the other teams in this case, are undoubtedly better than you are. But to know that you were just as good as the teams that went through, but yet still come out on the losing end is hard to accept. Nonetheless, there were many positives to take from the week. We left with a winning record, and stamped our place in Group 3. We were dominant in doubles and never lost one doubles match throughout the week. We finished between 2 and 3 spots higher than we did last year. And most importantly, we formed into a team, both on and off court, that I feel can represent Jamaica for many years to come.