Sixteen-year-old Josephine Grace Debalevu marked her Pacific Games debut as the first athlete from Team Fiji to compete in the 17th edition of the regional games, participating in the women’s singles against Solomon’s Zorika Morgan.
Regarded as one of the upcoming players in Tennis Fiji, the Sangam Sadhu Kuppuswamy Memorial College student started well, clinching the first set 4-2. Nervousness and excitement about playing in front of a big crowd got the better of her in a closely contested second set, losing 0-2. She fought back in the deciding set but ultimately succumbed 2-4.
Reflecting on her debut match, Debalevu admitted, “It was a nervous match for me to represent my country in my first Pacific Games. I was very excited and nervous because it’s going to be big, and there are going to be a lot of people watching.”
Acknowledging the strengths of her Solomon Islands opponent, Debalevu noted, “She was consistent. She got her shots back in the second set.”
Fiji’s other singles representative, Tarani Kamoe, also faced a tough challenge. Kamoe, making her first Pacific Games appearance in eight years, was matched up against the current Fiji Open champion, Georgina Row, and succumbed to a 2-4, 2-4 defeat.
Debalevu’s takeaway from the intense opening match is – to control her excitement and channel it into confidence on the court.
“It prepares me to go on the court to show that I’m the big dog in court and be confident,” she said.
Debalevu’s debut in the Pacific Games holds significant weight. The first in her family to take up tennis, she began her journey in year three at Nadi Sangam Primary School. Now, after eight years of dedication and hard work, she finds herself on the international stage, representing Fiji in the Solomon Islands, aligning with the historical significance of the Pacific Island nation as it hosts the regional continental games for the first time.
Later the same dat, Debalevu teamed up with Kamoe in the women’s doubles, losing 3-0. They play Tahiti next. The men start their competition as well, against the Solomon Islands.