Manders defends his crown
Gavin Manders hailed the continued growth of tennis in Bermuda after retaining his national No 1 ranking with victory at the MTM Open Championships at the Fairmont Southampton on Saturday.
In the conclusion of the five-day tournament, which was hosted by Manders Tennis Management, Bermuda’s top player for the past ten years, went head-to-head with No 2 seed, long-term friend and business partner Jovan Jordan-Whitter, in the Open A Division final, a repeat of last year’s title match.
In a heated encounter, Manders handled the added pressure of the prospect of losing his coveted top spot in the rankings, to ultimately prevail in a straight set 6-3, 6-1 success, taking the honours for a second successive year.
As well as being delighted to seal victory in front of his family, Manders hailed the success of the tournament that he and Jordan-Whitter organised, as they aim to rejuvenate the sport on island.
“No matter what would have happened at this tournament, Javon and myself would have been proud because we organised the event,” he said.
“I feel blessed that I’m still number one and that my family were here to watch me. At this stage of my career that’s always something I cherish, having them all here to watch me, especially in an even that I helped run.
“Myself and Javon bring the best out of one another. We’ve been together a long time and so to play him in the final of an event we’ve put on together was pretty fitting. When we’re in battle it can be a little more heated than usual because we know how to push each others buttons.
“Another really pleasing thing was the amount of people who came out and supported the event; that is one of the biggest accomplishments for me.
“It’s the first Bermuda Lawn Tennis Association ranked tournament of the year and the turn out of male and female players was fantastic.
“Having the sexes play each other in both divisions was brilliant and definitely added something different.
“It is all about growing tennis in Bermuda and this event really symbolises that.
“We are trying to build a committee within the sport and events like this will only help to cement that.”
Jordan-Whitter conceded his disappointment at losing for a second straight year to brotherly rival Manders, before reiterating the pairs delight at the achieving their ultimate aim of giving the sport a platform to flourish.
“It’s frustrating when you have a game plan but aren’t disciplined enough to execute it out throughout the match,” Jordan-Whitter reflected.
“We’ve known each other since we were six years old, we were roommates at tennis school, we’ve worked for one another and this sort of match has been a long time coming.
“We finished last year one and two in the rankings and it is the same now. With that familiarity there are heightened emotions because no-one wants their ‘brother’ to be better than them at anything.
“You won’t see us acting like that against other players but against one another we can let the emotions go a little more because of our relationship.
“However, the result isn’t the most important thing because on the grand scheme of things, we are trying our utmost to grow the sport. We want to make this event a premier spectator sport to come out and enjoy.
“It goes hand in hand. If we can get people to come out to an event like this then people will become more interested in tennis and the sport can grow.”
The day also saw the finale of the Open B Division, which was added to this year’s tournament, for anyone wanting to compete, helping to boost the competitor numbers.
Just as in the Open A final, the top two seeds locked horns on court in what would prove a well contested match. However, once again there was to be no upset as top seed Mackai Whitter overcame opponent Rickai Burrows in a straight sets 6-3, 6-2 victory.
“The Open B Division was a great success,” Manders said. “It was in that division that we had the greater turnout with a lot of the players coming back to watch the other matches throughout the week as well, which was great to see.
“We had a number of players back from college playing so it was great to have them back to compete and it was good to see some of the next generation playing.
“They played at a really good level and that stands the sport in a healthy position.”