In an historic achievement, Guam claimed their first ever Pacific Games medal in tennis on Tuesday evening – gold in the men’s teams event at Sol2023, narrowly edging out a tough Tahitian team, who were forced to settle for silver.
Guam tennis veteran Daniel Llarenas, along with younger teammates Camden Camacho and Mason Caldwell defeated Tahiti 2-1 (winning a singles match and the doubles match) to make tennis history at Honiara’s National Tennis Centre.
“This is a dream come true for our team and for me personally,” Llarenas told the Pacific Games News Service.
“I’ve been coaching some of these players since they were 11 years old and getting to play alongside them as a team and win our first ever medal in tennis for our country, and that being gold is just unbelievable, I can’t describe it.
“I’d like to thank my wife and the federation back home for their support. This has certainly boosted our confidence going into our upcoming singles and doubles matches.”
The men’s bronze playoff witnessed New Caledonia claiming victory over an emerging Fijian side (2-0). Fiji’s rising tennis star, Charles Cornish, said: “It’s a sad loss for us as we were really eager to win bronze. We’ll have to regroup and prepare better for the rest of the tournament.”
In the women’s teams event, Samoa claimed gold against a resilient Solomon Islands team (2-0). Annerly Georgopoulus of Samoa said: “I feel very honoured and privileged to play here. All in all, my team and I feel very blessed.
“Personally, this is my first Pacific Games so it’s very exciting. As a team, I think it’s important to work together and, of course, having good players and good managers helps, and from there we can show our results to the people back home and around the world, and hopefully inspire the next generation in sports.”
Raymond Schuster, Samoa’s team manager, attributed their success to both preparation and good facilities. “I am very proud of our girls and proud of Solomon Islands for providing these great tennis facilities. I believe 80 percent of the game is about having good facilities – it allowed us to play with confidence. We also prepared diligently from our silver win at the Samoa 2019 Pacific Games and did not underestimate Solomons coming into this match.”
In settling for silver, Zorika Dalice Morgan, a standout player for Solomon Islands, acknowledged the tough competition. “For me, it’s a very big thing since it’s my first Pacific Games, so despite our loss today I’m very proud of how far we came in the tournament,” she told the Pacific Games News Service.
“I think I played OK, but my competition was also good. I played my best, and with the help of our supporters, I will really try my best to go far in the rest of the tournament.”
In the women’s bronze playoff, Papua New Guinea (PNG) showcased their strength, securing a 2-0 victory over Tonga.
Abigail Tere-Apisah, PNG’s Samoa 2019 Pacific Games gold-winning singles player said: “This win is incredibly special, especially with the inclusion of our junior players this year. We did not aim for gold, as we have a fresh new team, so to come away with a bronze is pretty special.
“I want to credit my team, particularly Pauline (Hyun), for her crucial win in the first singles match. Feeling a bit fatigued and weighed down by the hot weather, her victory made it easier for me to secure the second match, avoiding the need for a deciding doubles match. I’m proud of her and the rest of our team.”
The tournament’s focus now shifts to the singles and doubles matches scheduled from Wednesday 22 November to Thursday 30 November, promising further intense showdowns on the court.
The action resumes on Wednesday at 9am.
By Lamantha Lano, Helen Palmer and Janabeth Sara, Pacific Games News Service