Simons determined to achieve lofty goals
Tariq Simons is determined to build on his fantastic run to become the island's No 1 player.
The 18-year-old defeated previous No 1 Gavin Manders, who has dominated local tennis for the past decade, in a three-set epic to win the MTM Championships at the Fairmont Southampton last weekend.
Simons has big ambitions in the sport and hopes to turn professional in the future — although he knows he still has plenty to learn.
“I recently decided that I'm going to play college tennis,” Simons said. “My ultimate goal is to turn professional and reach the top 100 in the world, possibly win a grand slam.
“This is assuming that I can get past the Challenger Tour [which is the second highest level of competition,” Simons said.
Simons looks up to Rafael Nadal, the world No 1 and 19-times grand-slam champion, as a major inspiration.
“My ultimate influence is Rafael Nadal; I have loved watching him play and admired him since I was about 7 years old,” Simons said.
Simons, the son of photographer Ras Mykkal, started playing tennis at the age of 7 at The Reefs Resort and Club in Southampton. He is hoping to attend one of the top colleges in the United States to hone his skills.
“I would prefer to attend one of the top 50 Division 1 schools,” said Simons, who won the MTM Easter Elite/Senior Bowl at the Fairmont Southampton last April. “I just started looking a few weeks ago.
“I'm hoping to start college tennis in September, or maybe next January. If I stick to it, I believe I can get to the top one hundred. I remain focused and will push hard to achieve that target.”
Simons, who is among a promising group of local players, including Daniel Phillips and Trey Mallory, is confident he can achieve his lofty goals.
And his coach, Manders, also feels he has the ability and mindset to go a long way in tennis.
“The sky is the limit for him,” said Manders, the island's most successful singles player in the Davis Cup with 18 wins.
“It is kind of early in the game; he has time to do things. The next step is a Division 1 college, possibly getting a scholarship, all while having free training to improve his game. One title is just a stepping stone in the right direction.
“He needs to win more consistently and finish the year at No 1 to begin thinking about the next level of competition and turning professional.”
Manders, 33, believes the biggest limitations facing his protégé are financial restrictions and stressed the importance of Simons competing consistently off the island.
“Tariq needs to improve mentally,” he said. “However, his limitations are really based on the resources we can get him to help him get to the next level.
“Tennis is a very expensive sport in terms of travel, training, and competition. That's why college may be a good way to help him get to the next level of action.
“Many top professionals have gone through college before entering professional competition.
“It is a win-win situation, many players have gone to college before turning professional. It is 2020 now, so if he can get free training and free education, that would greatly help.
“Otherwise, it would cost approximately $40,000 a year for training alone. At MTM [Manders Tennis Management], we train him for free because we see him as part of the future of local tennis, along with Daniel and Trey.
“We are about training the next generation to grow into better players and people.”