Diwani Lewis aiming for the stars
By Leeron Brumell
Guyana Chronicle
August 31, 2003

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NATIONAL tennis player Diwani Lewis says he wants to be ‘up there’ with the ‘rest of the guys’ on the international scene.

The 6-foot player who is also a certified level one coach said it is his goal to be among the best players in the world and at age 22, what better time to focus his energies in that direction.

Lewis recently organised and staged a successful Under-14 and 18 Boys’ and Girls’ national tournament at Le Meridien Pegasus that was sponsored by the Adams International Tennis Academy in Florida, which is being managed by another Guyanese, Bill Adams.

The tournament attracted over twenty youngsters and was staged from August 16 to 22.

It also received some local sponsorship from Robert’s Jewellery, which is owned by Robert Persaud.

Lewis noted that the tournament was staged at the approximated cost of US$600 or just over $100 000 in Guyanese currency.

The balls were imported, but the trophies that were presented had to be purchased here since shipping would have been more expensive and time-consuming.

The 175-pound player was originally offered a five-month training scholarship at the Academy, but it was extended after Adams was impressed with his willingness to progress. He has completed two five-month training stints, which ran from April to August 2002 and February-July 2003.

Lewis feels that the extension may well be a long-time relationship between himself and Adams, as he will be returning to Florida within another week’s time.

Having some eleven years in the sport, Lewis says the training he received at the Academy was intense and really different since he was in a new environment. He was introduced to the green clay court.

His scholarship was free, but in order for him to play in the big tournaments, is requires a lot of money, as such he is limited to playing in states just encompassing Florida, namely Miami, Orlando and Tallahassee.

For most, if not all Guyanese players, funding prevents them from moving on. Lewis has at his disposal the equipment and facilities but it would be a crying shame if he cannot participate in major tournaments, which is essential to his development.

In an exclusive interview with Chronicle Sport, Lewis mentioned nothing of wanting sponsorship, but it would be a boost to his training if he can acquire it.

Holder of a number of local titles in the junior category, Lewis has plans for staging an Open Tournament in March of 2004 or earlier if he receives the necessary funding to do so.

He said he was motivated to stage the junior tournament since there was lack of competitions being played in Guyana as compared to a few years back when he played.

Tournaments such as the Pegasus and GT&T Open, Beginners and Novices, a 702 Thermo Plastic, sponsored by Toolsie Persaud Ltd, and others have died a horrible death, thus hampering the progress of the local players.

“I was caught in a situation where I thought somebody can do something to help and I know I would feel happy seeing the kids playing tennis, they are not being given the opportunity to play.”

He said he was surprised at the level of play by the juniors in the tournament.

“I expected the top juniors like Squires and Holder, who won the Boys’ and Girls’ Under-18 titles respectively, to walk through the tournament, but they had to work to achieve this. The level was really surprising since these players only have at least two tournaments per year.”

He noted that Guyana’s three juniors at the Caribbean Under-14 championship in St Vincent might be at a disadvantage since he feels that Guyana’s level of play is behind that of the other countries

“We don’t have the facilities and we are lacking exposure which is very essential. We need to have the exposure to maintain the high level of competition”

Ezra Sue-Ho and Jeremy Miller will play in the Boys’ division, while Alice Alli will represent the Girls’. They are being coached and managed by former national Debbie Bunbury.

Lewis said he has great respect for Bunbury as a person and a coach since she was one that paid keen attention to him during his early career. He said her advice was sound and he knows she will do a good job with the juniors whom she has under her wings.

He was high in praise for former national players and coaches such as William Skeete, who introduced him to the game, Shelly Daly, Marvin Jeffrey, Steve Surujbally, John Bruce, Rudy Grant and Keith Eversley among others.

His parents, Ismay and Rufus, and brothers Oluki and Kijana have been behind him since he started his career at age 12.

His other brother Idi is an excellent table tennis player who is also overseas-based and has also been behind him every step of the way.