BY ROMULUS HUTA
A team of six – three men and three women will represent Solomon Islands in this year’s Oceania Tennis Nations Cup in Fiji.
The one-week tournament will be held at Lautoka from May 31 to June 5.
Solomon Islands will be represented by a star-studded side which include Benjamin Joel Junior, Graham Mani, Popai Leong, Doreen Ningalo, Prudence Bird and Zorika Morgan.
Four of the players named above are already in Fiji.
Benjamin Junior is currently studying at the Fiji National University (FNU) while Morgan, Bird and Mani are on an International Tennis Federation (ITF) scholarship at the Regional Tennis Institute in Lautoka.
Leong and Ningalo are the only two home-based members in the team.
The notable absence in the Nations Cup squad is the US-based duo Georjemah Row and Vinda Teally, who will not be able to make the long journey flying across the South Pacific Ocean from New Mexico to Fiji due to intensive study commitment.
Solomon Islands Tennis Association (SITA) Ian Honila said the tournament is expected to bring out the best of best in Pacific Islands tennis and will be a thriller showdown.
“Four players are already carrying out their preparations in Fiji while only two players are currently doing their training here at home.
“We are looking forward to some good results in the Nations Cup.
“We have a mixture of old and new players in the team and I’m pleased with the feedbacks received from the players so far regarding training,” Honila added.
A total of 15 Pacific Islands countries including Solomon Islands are participating in the Nations Cup.
The others are hosts Fiji, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Kiribati, Norfolk Islands, Northern Mariana Islands (NMI), Palau, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Samoa, Tahiti, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Leading up into the Nations Cup in Lautoka, Team Solomon Islands will take part in the Fiji Open scheduled for May 23 to 27 at the Denerau Golf and Racquet Complex in Nadi.
Veteran female netter Ningalo will be the team captain heading into the Fiji Open and the Nations Cup.
“We are ready to represent the country in the upcoming tournaments.
“We are having intensive training sessions for the tournaments coming up next month and in June.
“The other four are in Fiji with tight busy training schedules and the same also goes for me and Popai here in Honiara.”
The Nations Cup competition will be conducted in a pool format.
This means all teams will be divided into the four pools where all team players are eligible to play singles and doubles matches.
The two winners from each pool will advance into the play-off and the quarterfinal.
The winner of Pool A will play-off against the runner-up of Pool D and the runner-up of Pool A will play-off against the winner of Pool D. The winner of Pool B will play-off against the runner-up of Pool C and the runner-up of Pool B will play-off against the winner of Pool C to determine the semifinals.
Men’s and women’s singles to be a 3-tie break sets for every draw including play-off positions.
All Doubles matches, including finals, shall be two tie-break sets with a deciding match tie-break (10 points) at one set at all.
Meanwhile, seeding for the competition will be done by a seeding committee who will meet in advance and deliberate under specific criteria on date yet to be announced. The draws for the Oceania Tennis Nations Cup will be decided during the captain’s meeting set for May 30.