Simons becomes king of the court
Teenager Tariq Simons has been crowned the MTM Championships after stunning No 1 seed Gavin Manders in three sets in the final at the Fairmont Southampton yesterday.
Manders raced to an early 3-0 lead in the first set, but Simons reeled off six of the next seven games to steal the first set 6-4.
Both players were fighting tooth and nail to snatch the final, with a mixture of offence and defence making the encounter all the more intriguing. Despite only converting on two of his seven break chances in the first set, Simons came up with some clutch shots when it really mattered.
Manders, 33, felt the blow of losing that set and tried to jeer up his opponent with some verbal jabs as he stepped up to open the second set. However, Simons stood firm to steal the early break and move one step closer to the upset.
Manders, who was suffering from bronchitis, fought back strongly to get back on serve and level the second set at 3-3. After they traded breaks in the two subsequent games, Manders found the crucial break to win the second set 6-4 and level the match.
Both players were producing some swashbuckling tennis and getting the best out of each other at the crucial moments.
Despite losing the second set, Simons was the more aggressive of the two in the early stages of the third. However, Manders took the early break to lead 2-0 in the deciding set.
Simons fought back immediately before holding serve comfortably to get back into the set at 2-2.
The 18-year-old broke once again to go ahead in the final set, but Manders showed some serious determination to level the set and 4-4.
By this point, both players were running on reserved energy. However, Simons still had enough for one more push, and this one was crucial.
He broke Manders for the fifth time in the next game, on his third break point of the game.
Simons had all the pressure on his final service game to close out the match, but he held his nerve on the third match point to defeat Manders 6-4 in the third and conclude a pulsating three-hour final.
Simons was delighted to cause an upset by defeating his mentor and coach Manders.
“I am happy with my performance,” Simons said. “It's a bit difficult playing someone I am so close to.
“I see Gavin every single day [at the Fairmont Southampton Tennis Club], he and Jovan [Jordan-Whitter] have created a great atmosphere for me.
They have made me stronger and faster.”
The win lifts Simons above Manders as the island's new No 1 men's player and one of the youngest ever.
He said becoming No 1 “means the world” to him.
“I'm often told that I'm a late bloomer in terms of someone who wants to go professional.
“My progress was halted due to the fact I was unable to play international tournaments, so I'm making up for lost time. This is a starting point for me, No 1 in Bermuda and moving towards better things,” Simons added.
Simons also spoke about improvements he must make to become a better player.
“I still have some weaknesses; discipline on the court, shot selection. I definitely need to gain some weight. I am committed; anything I need to do, I will do it.”