Manders still relishing life at the top
Gavin Manders says he has no intention of relinquishing his vice-like grip on local tennis after celebrating his eleventh year as the island's No 1 men's player.
Still only 33 years old, Manders believes he can remain as the man to beat for several more years and attributes his reign of dominance to his mental strength and unfettered love for the game.
Manders not only won the MTM Singles Championships and MTM Easter Bowl at the Fairmont Southampton last season, he also claimed a bronze medal in the singles, silver in the men's doubles and bronze in the team event at the NatWest Island Games in Gibraltar last summer.
He was also recognised for his longstanding service to Bermuda tennis after receiving the Davis Cup Commitment Award, joining more than 360 recipients of this award, including John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Bjorn Borg and Roger Federer.
“There's been a lot of ups and downs throughout those 11 years [as the island's No 1], some good years and some not so good years,” Manders reflected.
“It's a long time to have held the No-1 spot and it's a great accomplishment.”
Manders has had to overcome significant trials and tribulations during his lengthy spell at the summit of Bermudian tennis.
He suffered career-threatening injuries in a bicycle accident near Five Star Island in Southampton in 2013 — the same spot that claimed the life of Craig Bean, who was considered Bermuda's best under-18 player, in 2000.
Last year, Manders also lost his mother Disa Potgieter-Oubella, who he describes as his most avid supporter.
“[Losing my mother] was the biggest challenge of my life and I've come out the other side of it stronger,” he said. “I have two healthy children and a balanced marriage, and a great support system.
“I don't have as many lows now and I'll keep going for as long as I love it. At this point, I'm just appreciative that I'm still able to do this and just wish my mom was here to see it.
“As long as I have the support system around me, people like Sam Maybury, who has been my coach and mentor throughout, I actually think I can play better tennis than ever before because my mind is stronger than it's ever been.”
Manders, who trains at Beyond Fitness Bermuda, knows his time at the top cannot last for ever and fully expects either one of his Davis Cup team-mates, Trey Mallory or Tariq Simons, to eventually knock him off his perch.
“You've got Trey and Tariq knocking on the door,” said Manders, who briefly lost his No 1 spot to David Thomas. “Plus, Sam Butler is someone you always have to compete with.
“Any of these guys can spike up because they are playing more tennis than me,”
As the island's most successful singles player in the Davis Cup with 18 wins, Manders has a wealth of knowledge to pass on to up-and-coming players such as Mallory and Simons.
He said he will be disappointed if one of those pair does not surpass his achievements in the sport.
“The whole point of everything I do is to create better players than myself,” said Manders, who founded Manders Tennis Management in 2017 and provides tuition at Fairmont Southampton.
“I'm not holding my secrets to myself; I'm giving Tariq and Trey everything in my vault. These guys will either make me realise I don't want to strive to be No 1 any more or they will push me to take it up another notch. I won't know until it's happened.
“It will be great for them to do it, but it won't be given to them. It's my job to hold them off for as long as possible.”