FOLLOWING her success at two local tennis tournaments for 2020, Saint Lucia’s junior female tennis player for the year 2019 Iyana Paul now holds the eighth spot for Under 14 Girls in Central America and the Caribbean combined as determined by the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) regional governing body, COTECC (ConfederaciÛn de Tenis de CentroamÈrica y el Caribe).
In the first major tournament for 2020, the Independence Open Classic held in February, the 13-year-old was the losing finalist in Girls 18s, when she was defeated by Aviona Edmund 3-6, 6-4, 10-7.
Then came the Covid-19 pandemic in March, all sporting activities were either postpone or cancelled.
On the resumption of sporting activities six months later (August), in the SLTA Summer Slum Classic Girls 16s final she was defeated by Jessica Eudovic; Iyana then went on to capture the Girls 18s title by defeating Alysa Elliott in the finals.
There was still some fuel left in the tank, when she went on to clinch the ladies doubles Championship with her partner Jessica Eudovic, the pair defeated Amelia Duval and Lindy Amedee.
Under the watchful eyes of one of the Caribbean renowned tennis player Vernon Lewis who is Iyana’s head coach, she won, in 2019, the Consolation draw in the Under 14s C.O.Williams COTECC Tennis Tournament.
Also in 2019, she was the finalists in both singles and doubles in Antigua and Barbuda, Wadadli Bowl Under 14s COTECC Tournament.
At the Sagicor Under 14s COTECC Tournament 2019 played in Saint Lucia, she made it to the quarterfinal round only to be defeated by Sibley Charles of Antigua and Barbuda.
Based on her outstanding performance in the Under 12s team tournament played in 2019, Iyana was selected to participate in the regional Under 12 training camp in Trinidad and Tobago for the top players in the region. During the camp, Iyana participated in a number of playing patterns, serving techniques, physical and mental conditioning.
Trained by Ron Blanchard of Blanchard’s Tennis Academy, Iyana is a Form 2 student at the Leon Hess Comprehensive Secondary School (LHCSS), she receives continuous support from her mother Skyla Murray who is also the administrator at the National Tennis Centre who ensures that Iyana stays on top of her academic work when participating in tournament both locally and overseas.
According to her mother, all regional tournament for the first half of 2021 have been cancelled, but they are working towards JITIC, the biggest regional tournament scheduled for June/ July. The pair are keeping a close eye on the No.1 spot by October.
The Saint Lucia National Tennis Association (SLNTA) also provides valuable support and encouragement to the junior player.
The top 10 players: (1) Cameron Wong (Trinidad and Tobago); (2) Valentina Ugarte (Ecuador); (3) Carolina Mendivil Alsnso (Mexico); (4) Jaede Joseph Daniel (Trinidad and Tobago); (5) Lia Ana Banegas (Honduras); (6) Jordane Dookie (Trinidad and Tobago); (7) Fiorella Garcia (Honduras); (8) Iyana Paul (Saint Lucia); (9) Jose Maria Suarez (Honduras); (10) James Zoey (Antigua and Barbuda).
Saint Lucia other player is 13 year old Latoya Murray; Murray is at No.31. She is a student at the Babonneau Secondary School.
It must be noted that the last female player to be in the top three of a regional ranking was Meggan Williams, six years ago. She is the current senior female tennis player of the year and is presently at the University of Charleston in the USA.