STILL GETTING READY FOR COMPETITIONS
Amid the uncertainties brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, long-time CNMI coach Jeff Race said they will try their best to get ready for competitions.
The Commonwealth’s tennis players are slated to participate in the North Pacific Regional Championships in Guam in September and in the Pacific Oceania Junior Championships in Fiji in October, based on the revised schedule set by the Oceania Tennis Federations. Originally, the North Pacific event was to take place last month, while the POJC was to be held between July and August. OTF had to make changes due to the pandemic and is hoping there would be no more delays and this year’s competitions could push through.
“Everyone’s training schedule this year is completely thrown off, but our NMI junior team will do its best to be ready if things work out,” Race said.
In the North Pacific tournament, which Race’s squad has been dominating for more than a decade, the CNMI will be sending players to Guam for the U12, U14, and U16 age group competitions. Players’ selection to the national junior team will be based on their performance in Northern Mariana Islands Tennis Association-sanctioned tournament this year.
The NMITA, due to the pandemic, has finished only three local competitions this year—TanHoldings Tennis Classic in November, Saipan International School STUCO Tournament in January, and the Coconut Tennis Classic in February. The group then had the opening week of the inaugural Bridge Capital Tennis Tournament before the second and final one was suspended Mid-march due to the crisis. Besides the Bridge Capital-sponsored event, NMITA also missed holding the CNMI Junior Championships that was earlier scheduled for April.
Despite failing to complete its calendar of events this season, Race said they have enough competitions to use as basis for selecting the members of the CNMI National Junior Team that will play in the North Pacific tournament. Players received ranking points from these local contests and usually the ones that topped the charts earn a slot on the squad.
For the POJC, players who will do well in the North Pacific event will get a spot on the North Pacific Team and challenge the representatives of the East (Cook Islands, Tonga, Norfolk Islands, Tahiti, and Samoa) and West (Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, American Samoa, and Papua New Guinea) squads. The CNMI will be joined on the North team by players from Guam, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
The schedules of the POJC (Oct. 14-23) and North Pacific qualifier (Sept. 5-9) are tentative as these will depend on the availability of flights for the traveling teams. In case the CNMI, Palau, and FSM could not make it to Guam, OTF is considering rescheduling the tournament anew or giving wildcard slots to players for the POJC.
“The OTF’s plan is optimistic and I hope it works,” Race said.