CNMI junior tennis players won’t be competing in off-island tournaments anytime soon, as two events have been pushed back anew due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Northern Mariana Islands Tennis Association official Jeff Race, organizers of the North Pacific Regional Championships and the Pacific Oceania Junior Championships made changes on the schedule of their respective tournaments, as their organizations have yet to get clearance from either the government or sanctioning international federations to resume play amid this crisis.
Guam is this year’s host of the NPRC and before the pandemic struck the world, the competition that also features players from Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia was slated for mid-June. The event was then moved for July 13 to 17, but has been pushed back further, between September and October.
Race added that there’s a possibility that the NPRC will eventually be canceled, depending on the development in the coronavirus pandemic. The NPRC is held annually to select players that will represent the North Pacific Team in the Pacific Oceania Junior Championships.
The POJC, which has competitions in the U12, U14, and U16 age groups, brings together players from 18 of the 20 member-countries of the Oceania Tennis Federation to Fiji as they battle for team and individual honors. The North Pacific Team plays against the East (Cook Islands, Tonga, Norfolk Islands, Tahiti, and Samoa) and West (Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, American Samoa, and Papua New Guinea). New Caledonia, Tuvalu, and Nauru also send players in the POJC and they compete for the Nations Cup, which the CNMI has won twice (2017 and 2018).
The POJC is usually held between July and August, but was rescheduled from Oct. 15 to 24 last March. Now, the regional event has been moved to December.
The new schedule will be a challenge to players, according to Race since September and October are school months. The same conflict is seen for the POJC and sending representatives to the event in Fiji may also depend on the fate of the NPRC.
Race said that if the NPRC will be scrapped, the CNMI may send just its top players to the POJC. Organizers of the competition in Fiji are also looking at having a by invitation event.
Meanwhile, Race reminded the tennis community that the American Memorial Park courts are still closed. NMITA is still working with the National Park Service in Guam, which manages the AMP, to request for the reopening of the facility.
According to Race, the NPS needs the CNMI government to name specifically the sports allowed to return to play. Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, in the coronavirus pandemic guidelines released late last month, allowed health and wellness activities (such as gym reopening and walking and running along the beach), but made no specific mention of any sports, while press secretary Kevin Bautista earlier said golf is allowed with social distancing rules in effect.