By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
Kevin Major Jr and Shaquille Taylor have made history as the first two Bahamian male tennis players to advance to the semifinal of an ITF Junior Circuit Tournament. And Major Jr and Philip Major Jr went one step ahead with their historic berth into the final of men’s doubles.
The trio’s historic feats all came on Thursday in the Goombay Splash Bowl at the National Tennis Center.
Major Jr got his first piece of history when he eliminated Canadian Laurent Mailloux 6-1, 6-0 in his quarterfinal match. He was followed by Taylor, who disposed of American Elio Livi 6-3, 6-2. Before the day was done, Kevin and Philip Major Jr ousted the team of Jose Gil and Julian Saborio from Costa Rica 6-1, 7-5 in the doubles semifinal.
While both the men and women singles semis (not featuring any Bahamians) will take center stage today, both doubles will follow as the tournament, hosted by the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association, winds down. The singles will be played on Saturday, along with the 14-and-under boys and girls finals.
#Kevin Major into semifinals
#After dropping the first game in the first set as Laurent Mailloux held serve, Major Jr went on to breeze past his Canadian opponent with an easy 6-1 win.
In the second set, the top Bahamian junior player didn’t ease up on the pressure as he controlled every aspect of the game. “It was really good. I played patient and really aggressive,” he said.
“I used the whole court instead of just one area and he wasn’t able to handle it. The match was pretty routine. I just did what I had to do. If I continue to play the way I’m playing, I should win it.”
No. 6 seed Major Jr, 17, will be playing against the No.8 seed Josh Silverstain in today’s semifinal. The southpaw, making his debut here, got by fellow American Kian McClean 6-1, 7-6 (3) in his half of the draw yesterday.
“I thought it was a pretty good match. I started off well, but I had a little lapse in the second set, but I managed to pull it out,” he said. “It was a good win.”
On playing Major Jr, the 16-year-old from New York said: “I haven’t watched him play that much. I heard he is a great player with a good forehand, so I have to play hard. I think it’s going to be a good match.”
Taylor to meet long-time rival
Affectionately called ‘Shaq’, Shaquille Taylor joined Kevin Major Jr by advancing to his singles semis by outlasting Elio Vivi 6-3, 6-2.
“It was a tough match. I had a lot of things going on in my mind and he played well,” said Taylor of his victory. “This is my first time ever playing in an ITF semifinal, so I had to push myself through that. I just went out there with the mindset that once my forearm is on, I can be unstoppable. I just went out there with my game plan and I took control.”
Taylor is slated to play Grenada’s Yannik James, who is a teammate of his at the Bill Adams Tennis Academy in Pembrooke Pines, Florida, and whom he defeated in three sets when they first played each other four years ago in the same tournament in the 14s single.
“He’s a great player. We train together and we have known each other for a long time,” Taylor said. “I’m hoping that I can beat him again so that I can get into the final.”
As for James, who shares the expertise of travelling coach Kevron Bennett with Taylor, said he’s excited about the way he’s performing.
“I think I showed up. I played pretty well. You never know what will happen this time.”
After having to come from behind in their previous two matches to get into the semis, Kevin and Philip Major Jr warmed up for the final with their straight set win over their Costa Rican opponents. “I love it,” Kevin Major Jr said. “I don’t think a Bahamian has ever won an ITF title, so I hope to be the first one, not only to do it in singles, but doubles as well, and right here at home.”
While the boys are still alive, Danielle Thompson was the last Bahamian female player to be eliminated. She lost her singles quarterfinal match yesterday 6-4, 6-2 to No.4 seed Ines Vias from the United States.
“The first set, I was a little shaky, nervous. In the second set, I had a chance to get back with my game, but she was just a very steady player, very consistent,” Thompson said. “I just wasn’t there with her anymore. Overall, I played good. I played my best. She was just a steady player.”
Although she didn’t expect to be in the quarterfinal, Thompson said she was pleased with her play and she hopes to improve on it next year.