Butler proves fighting fit
Sam Butler turned the tables on Gavin Manders after defeating him 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the Bermuda Clay Court Championships final at Coral Beach and Tennis Club on Saturday.
Butler, who lost to Manders in the Bacardi/Martini Cup at Pomander Gate last month, came from behind to clinch his first title of the season in a closer match than the scoreline suggested.
The 32-year-old clawed his way back into the final after losing a gruelling first set and believed his extra fitness proved the difference as the match wore on.
“It was a real battle and it’s always close [between me and Manders],” said Englishman Butler.
“Gavin’s had the upper hand and is number one for a reason, so it’s good to get one back. It sounds like I was cruising towards the end, but every single game was tight.
“I’m fitter than Gavin at the moment — he’s got two little kids and is working hard — so I thought if I could keep him on court for a while I’d have a chance.”
Despite losing, Manders retains his No-1 ranking as Butler missed the opening competition of the season, the Deloitte Open at Pomander Gate in May, because he was getting married.
Manders won that tournament by defeating David Thomas in the final.
“I told my wife she was selfish as she cost me my chance of being No 1 this year!” Butler added.
Manders had no complaints and said Butler had played “smarter tennis”.
He said: “I have to tip my hat off to him and he played better than me on the day — it’s as simple as that.
“I had four matches yesterday and felt a bit fatigued, but that’s for me to be in better shape so I can handle the workload.
“I just ran into someone today who was playing better than me.”
In the women’s final, Ashley Brooks won her third straight Bermuda Clay Court Championships title after defeating Erica Bove 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“That was the goal, to defend my title, and I’m happy with the end result,” Brooks, who missed the previous two tournaments because of a knee injury, said.
“I thought it was a great match and Erica played well. It was a good three-set match, I was fighting with myself at times, but I kept on regaining control.”
Bove, a former Venezuela Fed Cup player, said she did better than she expected, given the 14-year age gap between the two finalists.
“Ashley is much younger than me and it’s nice to know I can still compete,” said the 42-year-old.
“She had some terrific points and runs like nobody else. I did my best and at one point I thought I had it, but I just made too many mistakes. It’s always a privilege to play and compete and it was quite close.”
In the men’s doubles final Manders and David Thomas beat Trey Mallory and Neal Towlson 6-4, 6-1. Brooks and Jackie Lambert defeated Bove and Gill Butterfield 6-3, 6-3 in the women’s final.