Writes Kelsie Johnson, Sports Reporter for the Nassau Guardian in “Turnquest sticks behind decision to exclude players”:

The executive members in the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association (BLTA) will not re-think their position on the selection of players for the upcoming Fed Cup Tournament. In fact, president Stephen Turnquest believes that he and the board members did what was right, when they made their decision in January.

The Fed Cup team, which is preparing for competition April 19 at the National Tennis Club in Guayaquil, Ecuador, includes Kerrie Cartwright, Simone Pratt and Gabrielle Moxey. The team is being coached by Paula Whitfield. The board members decided to exclude two of the country’s top players, Larikah Russell and Nikkita Fountain, after they failed to compete in the December Invitational – a criteria for team selection.

President Turnquest believes that the process was a clear, just and fair one, and that the selection guidelines were followed. He said: “I can’t comment on what is written in the story. The only thing that I can comment on, or say to the situation is (that) the selection process has been in place for many years. We have an end-of-year tournament and the top players are invited to participate. In Larikah’s case, in 2008 she did not participate, but she was still selected to go in 2009. In 2008, she had a death in her family which happened several weeks before the trials, but they still allowed her to play (in the Fed Cup).

“Last year, she didn’t show. She sent her report in as well and gave reasons why she could not attend. The executive as a body, a unit, decided that well she did not show up so the selection was made without her. In Nikkita’s case, she called to say that she was coming. She was in the draw to participate, she did not show. She called and said that she was stuck in Miami, no problem. Then the day came, she did not show and said that she was going to be a little late. Afterwards, the tournament director got a letter stating that she (Nikkita) did not show up because she was ill. Two months later, we got a doctor’s certificate saying that she was ill in December.

“Now, there is no question about if they are the top players in the country. That is not the issue. The issue is this – if you do not follow the guidelines of the association then this will be the end result. The guidelines aren’t made by Stephen Turnquest. This was made by the board and the directors. All the boys showed up (to the December Invitational), no problem, and the selection for the Davis Cup team was made – no problem at all.”

In an earlier interview with The Nassau Guardian, both Russell and Fountain demanded answers from the BLTA as to why they were not selected. The two confirmed that they gave reasons as to why they were unable to compete. If these reasons were accepted then, said Russell and Fountain, “why aren’t their names included for the 2010 team.”

However, Turnquest had a few questions of his own for Russell and Fountain. Turnquest asked would it be right to include them (Russell and Fountain) just because they are regarded as the two top players?

“You can’t unilaterally say that okay, I am the best and I can do this and do the next thing,” said Turnquest. “It doesn’t work like that. Too many times you have persons believing that it will work, but you take a stand and do what you believe. Stephen did not do it – it was done collectively by the board. The process was there to go and start the competition at the end of the year. This is not the first time this has happened. This was in place before I became president. There is no challenge to it and there were no problems with it in the previous years, none whatsoever.

“Now, they are saying I am not going to show up, they are going to name me. It is not about us trying to take them out with no reason or cause. It isn’t that at all. I was told that I should do what is honorable. Fine, I am going to do that. I am going to stay the cause, because you can’t say that this is the rule and you (will) follow this rule and (then) change it. No you can’t do that because it won’t be fair, as those other players went about and did the sacrifices as well, they came.”

Turnquest also pointed out that both Russell and Fountain are on subvention, and that the two tennis players are aware of what is required of them. The two have represented The Bahamas at the Fed Cup Tournament in the past. They were members of the team which was recently demoted to Americas Zone II, after losing all three ties in 2009. The losses came to Puerto Rico, 1-2, Canada, and to Colombia, 0-3.