The CNMI National Tennis Team advanced to both the semifinals of the men’s and women’s divisions in the 2022 Pacific Nations Cup in Lautoka, Fiji.
Playing coach Bobby Cruz and Colin Ramsey finished pool play with a 2-1 win-loss record after beating Solomon Islands yesterday.
Cruz gave the CNMI a 1-0 lead after dominating his singles match against Popai Leong, 6-2, 6-1, in 1 hour and 38 minutes.
Solomon Islands, however, equalized after Junior Miki rebounded from a first set loss to beat Ramsey, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, in an epic match that lasted 2 hours and 20 minutes.
In the deciding doubles match, Cruz and Ramsey survived Leong and Miki in the first set before blowing them out of the water in the second, 6-4, 6-1, in a match that lasted just 57 minutes.
Aside from playing terrific tennis on the court, Cruz said all of them are having a great time in Fiji and also reconnecting with familiar faces.
“Fiji is wonderful and the people are wonderful. It’s a very humble place. It’s very nice to see all the countries from across the Pacific come together again. We’ve met some of them from the Mini Games so we’ve built great relationships. It’s nice to see a lot of folks here representing their country and just having a good time.”
The playing coach added that the Pacific Nations Cup is also elevating their play.
“Everytime we get experience at this level it’s good and it helps to add to the capacity of our team. Colin has been playing our No. 1 spot and he’s been really excelling. It’s been good.”
For Ramsey, the tourney in Fiji is allowing him not only to spread his wings in the sport but also develop lifelong bonds with his teammates.
“It’s definitely been a journey of exploration with Bobby and I as a team. We’re just forging better relationships between Bobby and the girls as well through our travels and play and getting to talk and hear their stories and trying to help them in tennis.”
While the men are coming into the semis ranked No. 2 in their pool, the women are more impressive after getting the top ranking.
This, after Isabel Heras and Hye Jin Elliot shocked No. 1 seed Samoa yesterday to advance as the top seed in their pool at 3-0.
Elliot gave her best in the first singles match but surrendered a 4-6, 5-7 loss to Samoa’s Rosie Tupuola in a tough 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Good thing for the CNMI, Heras again came to rescue after a gutsy 6-2, 6-3 victory over Mahina Warren in just 1 hour and 32 minutes.
In the make-or-break doubles match, Heras and Elliot rode a roller-coaster ride of a match before prevailing against Warren and Eleanor Schuster in a super tiebreaker, 6-1, 2-6, 10-7. The match lasted 1 hour and 16 minutes.
Prior to their match against top seed Samoa, the duo said they’re pumped up just being in contention for the Top 2 seeds in their pool.
“I’m proud of Hye Jin and her fight today in singles. She tried her very best, but her opponent was a better player. This event is about teamwork and the doubles point yet again helped us get a win,” said Heras after their victory against Tahiti Wednesday.
Elliot added she’s just proud they were able to eke out the win against Tahiti.
“I’m proud that Isabel and I got our second win today.”
She added that the Pacific Nations Cup is turning out to be a nice trade off for missing the past two North Pacific Regional Championships.
“The Nations Cup is definitely on a higher level of tennis. So it really challenges me to play at my best,” she said.
Cruz applauded Heras and Elliot’s fightback in the face of having to win their second singles matches the past couple of games against Tahiti and Samoa.
“They’ve had some tough wins and some tough losses individually but they’ve been able to put it together in the doubles. They’ve been winning a lot of clutch doubles matches. Because of their win against Samoa today they emerged No. 1 in their pool, which is good because they weren’t seeded. It really says something about how well Isabel and Hye Jin are playing. It’s been a lot of fun and a lot of tense moments. A lot of nerves and a lot of injuries. All of us are getting patchups done to try and stay alive.”
Cruz also took time to thank everyone back home for their support of Team NMI in Fiji.
“On behalf of the entire team, all of us just want to thank the entire CNMI for their continued support. All the different sponsors that supported our participation here and also our families. We just want to give a shoutout to our families and loved ones we’re spending time away from home so it’s a big commitment for all of us,” he said.
After three consecutive years of postponements due to COVID-19 border closures, the International Tennis Federation-sponsored 3rd Pacific Nations Cup finally got underway this week.