Island Time: Bicknell becomes Jamaica’s second Challenger champion
The 22-year-old turned pro last June
February 01, 2024
Blaise Bicknell celebrates winning his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Indian Wells, California.
By Grant Thompson
Blaise Bicknell grew up in the tropical paradise of Jamaica. It’s perfectly fitting that he won his first ATP Challenger Tour title on Sunday at California’s Indian Wells Tennis Garden, which bills itself as Tennis Paradise.
The 22-year-old frequently visited his grandfather’s tennis court on their property in Jamaica during his childhood. If he was not playing tennis, he was enjoying island time; at the beach with friends, swimming and surfing.
“Life’s a bit slower in Jamaica. You think of Jamaica, you think of Bob Marley, everybody is relaxed,” Bicknell told ATPTour.com. “There’s no real sense of urgency around here, everybody’s just chilled out. Drink Red Stripe, play dominoes, go to the beach. It’s very easy to relax here.”
With his triumph at the Southern California Open 2, Bicknell joined Dustin Brown as the only Jamaican-raised Challenger champions. Former World No. 64 Brown won eight titles at that level from 2009 to 2019. The Kingston-native Bicknell will once again represent his country in this weekend’s Davis Cup World Group II playoff tie against Barbados.
Bicknell opened the season at the first of two Challenger tournaments held at Indian Wells, where he suffered an opening-round loss to Brandon Holt. But the 6’3″ Bicknell earned quick revenge, knocking out Holt the following week in the quarter-finals and cruising past four-time Challenger champion Zachary Svajda 6-3, 6-2 in the final.
“It feels incredible,” Bicknell said of his maiden title. “I lost in the final of the Lima Challenger [in August] and I hadn’t been back to a final since. I played well throughout it. I didn’t drop a set, which was big for me. Just worked hard the whole offseason and the results are showing now.”
Blaise Bicknell wins his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title at the Southern California Open 2.”>
Blaise Bicknell triumphs at the ATP Challenger 50 event in Indian Wells, California. Credit: Lexie Wanninger
When Bicknell was born, his mother was flown to Miami for delivery, only to return promptly to the island, where he and his four siblings were raised. The south Florida connection came full circle when at age 15, Bicknell moved to Miami to train at the Saviano High Performance Tennis Academy.
Bicknell is the latest college tennis product to be excelling at the next level. A member of the 2021 NCAA All-Tournament Team, Bicknell competed for two seasons at the University of Florida, where he tallied a perfect 32-0 record his sophomore season playing as high as #4. Bicknell then transferred to the University of Tennessee, where he played his final two seasons.
Since turning pro in June, Bicknell has soared more than 500 spots in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings to a career-high No. 319. The rapid rise has Bicknell hungry for more in his first full season on the ATP Challenger Tour.
“I definitely want to make Roland Garros and Wimbledon qualifying. I have no points to defend until then, so I think it’s very possible,” Bicknell said. “And every tennis player’s goal is Top 100.”