Writes Kelsie Johnson Sports Reporter at the Nassau Guardian in “Top players searching for answers” (Tuesday March 16, 2010):

Two of the country’s top female tennis players, Larikah Russell and Nikkita Fountain, are demanding answers from the Bahamas Lawn Tennis Association (BLTA) executive members as to why they were cut from the Fed Cup team.

According to Russell and Fountain, legitimate reasons were given to the BLTA executive board as to why they were unable to compete in the 2009 December Invitational, which is said to be a criteria for selection. If these reasons were accepted then, said Russell and Fountain, “why aren’t their names included for the 2010 team.”

Team members listed on the association’s website were Kerrie Cartwright, Simone Pratt and Gabrielle Moxey. The team is being coached by Paula Whitfield.

Fountain said: “I feel as if it is a slap in the face not even notifying us or communicating to us that we were not chosen for the team. We had to find that out on their online posting, saying who was on the team that was selected. I myself have represented The Bahamas from the age of 11-12 and I was number one in the Central American and Caribbean juniors and we have made history as far as Fed Cup is concerned. We’ve been to Zone I, which ‘Rikah (Larikah Russell) and I were a part of. We’ve done it time and time again. We’ve had problems getting over that hump to go past Zone I, but we’ve continued to get into Zone I.

“Now they are changing the team and sending three juniors who have no experience in that type of competition and even at that level. Even if they are saying that the invitational was a criteria, I was sick and turned in a doctor’s note. With the criteria, as along as you turn in a doctor’s note you would not be penalized. They said to Larikah in person that she would not be penalized, but yet we are still being penalized. We are confident that this is a mistake and that they would solve this problem before they send this team. We don’t want to be embarrassed and sent down to another zone after all the work Larikah and I have put in. We just think that we deserve a little more respect than they are giving us.”

The round-robin tournament for the Fed Cup will be contested on April 19 at the National Tennis Club in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The two pools will be divided by 12 nations inclusive of The Bahamas, Bermuda, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Trinidad and Tobago.

After working hard to be promoted to Zone I of the Americas region, The Bahamas was 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.

Russell has an overall record of 23-9 in Fed Cup play. She has accumulated a win/loss record of 12-5 in singles and 11-4 in doubles. According to the team’s biography on the Fed Cup website, Russell and Fountain are the best doubles team with a record of 9-4. The most ties was played by Kim Cartwright.

The Nassau Guardian’s attempt to contact BLTA President Steven Turnquest was unsuccessful.