Simons holds nerve to tighten grip on No 1
The first sporting event to take place since the novel coronavirus brought Bermuda to a virtual halt was declared a “resounding success” yesterday.
Sport on the island stopped in the third week of March, after which a series of events were either postponed or cancelled — culminating last week in Cup Match, the Eastern Counties and the Western Counties being wiped from the 2020 calendar.
But tennis is among the few sports where social-distancing can be effected, and the green light was given during Phase 2 of the reopening of the Bermuda economy.
Gavin Manders, the eponymous principal of MTM, seized on the opportunity when tennis could be the only show in town, the result being the MTM Covid Championships at the Fairmont Southampton Tennis Club.
The weeklong tournament catered to 68 players of all abilities, who had crowds cheering them on that they might not have otherwise seen, so keen were some fans to see live local sport in the outdoors.
They were not to be disappointed, with the top two players in the island advancing to a well-played Open A final, which 19-year-old Tariq Simons won 6-4, 7-5 over Manders to retain his grip on the No 1 ranking.
There is a new women's No 1 after Kirsten Saltus persevered 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 over Morgan Lightbourne. In the Open B final, Antonio Warner beat Cooper McGuire 6-3, 6-3.
“It was a beautiful week of tennis for Bermuda, positive vibes for the tennis community, especially in such stressful times,” said Manders, who had to split his time between tournament director, maintenance man, refereeing and playing.
“We want to do our part to continue to share our passion for the game. MTM is all about helping to grow the sport of tennis in Bermuda. We definitely look to have some more events.”
On the court, the former Bermuda No 1 had mixed fortunes, having eased his way into the final. “It was a bit disappointing to not finish out and get my No 1 spot back,” he said. “I love the battles, I love to compete. I had to deal with some adversity, got a little nicked up and the body couldn't hold up. But no excuses. Tariq was the better man on the day.”
Manders, 34, sprinted out to a 3-0 lead before the younger man regained his composure to take six of the next seven games to clinch the first set.
A key turning point saw Manders twist an ankle in the second set, but the veteran left-hander battled throughout, seeing off six match points before Simons brought matters to a close.
“As a coach and mentor, I couldn't be more proud [of Simons],” Manders said. “To be able to create a champion to be better than me is really what it is all about. It was one of those special days, where although I was disappointed as a warrior on the day, it was special to be in a war with my student who is using the tools I have given him to handle the pressure and close out a match against someone like myself who's been to 40, 50 finals.”
The result was a just reward for Simons, who had by far the more challenging half of the draw. He earlier required three sets to subdue Trey Mallory, the world No 504 junior in the International Tennis Federation rankings, and then closed out his coach, Jovan Whitter, in two close sets in the semi-finals.
“My match with Gavin was a tough one, as much mental as it was physical,” Simons said of the final. “He came out with a strong mentality — very aggressive and very intense, he was missing very few shots. Me on the other hand struggled with that, making plenty of errors.”
The teenager admitted the injury suffered by Manders led to a change of tactic. He said: “I moved him around a good bit, used my angles, used my depth and kept the ball in play longer to put some stress on him. But he dealt with it well.
“I broke him at 4-4, but couldn't serve out the match. Out of the six match points, one I double-faulted away, but the others were ‘ridiculous' points where he came out on top. He played well. I'm just glad I came out on top and that all the training that I'm doing at MTM with Gavin and Jovan is paying off. I can't wait for the next tournament.”
Whitter, who doubled as tournament referee, remarked on a good week for tennis.
“It was a resounding success,” he said. “We had roughly 68 participants in four different categories. Our green-ball championship was a well-thought-out, progressive movement for the continued development and growth of the sport locally.
“We definitely wanted to make an effort to cater to the novice players on the island that don't have any competition to play. We had a separate category for the juniors to play among themselves, and the winner of the juniors would play against the winner of the adult division.”
Among the notable inclusions was the presence of Katerina Filip, a 20-year-old Swede who was once ranked No 815 on the WTA Tour. “We usually like to play open draws with the women playing alongside the men,” Whitter said. “We were also able to have a top-1200 player in the world in play in the open event. That was a great change.
“It was a wonderful experience to see some of our younger students play in the men's side of the event and do extremely well. I thought a highlight of the week was having Trey Mallory, finally play a local event for us.”
But Whitter noted that the match of the tournament was the Open A final. He said: “Gavin tweaked an ankle and fought through to the very end. Very emotional tennis, very intense tennis. Very good crowd, energy electric, cheering loud.”
Saltus, the new women's No 1, had a few parting words for the public.
“I really enjoyed this tournament and I'm ready for the next one,” she said. “Overall, the atmosphere was really good. It was more people than we normally have. We need people to keep coming out. Tell a friend to tell a friend, so that it keeps growing.”
Kirsten Saltus bt Jahzuena Bradshaw-Douglas 6-4, 6-3
Nadhira Durham bt Quanae Lowe 4-2
Mikey MacLean bt Evi Robb 4-1
Jaden Jones bt Fin Gallagher 4-0
Yolanda Gallagher bt Renée Foggo Paynter 4-0
Jadon Spriggs bt Marley MacLean 4-1
Morgan Lightbourne bt Emma Astwood 6-0, 3-6, 6-1
Jaden Jones bt Tobias Goodchild 4-3 (10-5)
Tristan Petit bt Mikey MacClean 4-0
Ethan Anderson bt Nadhira Durham 4-0
Andy Voong bt Melissa Trott 4-3 (10-6)
Yasmin MacClean bt Tina McGuire 1-0 retired
Cooper McGuire bt Nick Butterfield 4-6, 6-3, 10-6
Druw Bascome bt Finote Hiwot 4-0
Kirsten Saltus bt Andre Carr 6-3, 6-4
Ciaran Duffy bt Yolanda Gallagher 4-1
Tyler Mallory bt Edel Faulkner 4-0
Will Leigh wo Hugh Seymour
Dave Bart bt Mike Musson 6-0, 6-0
Alvaro Triana bt Andy Voong 4-0
Tyler Mallory bt Druw Bascome 4-0
Gavin Manders bt Bobby Bart 6-1, 6-3
Nick Cooper bt Katerina Filip 7-6, 6-7, 10-7
Scott Redmond bt Benjamin Jones 6-2, 6-4
Antonio Warner bt Morgan Lightbourne 6-4, 6-2
Vincent Boisvert bt Cooper McGuire 7-5, 7-6
Tristan Petit bt Jadon Jones 4-2
Ethan Anderson bt Jadon Spriggs 4-1
Tobiah Goodchild bt Mikey MacLean 4-1
Ethan Anderson bt Tristan Petit 4-2
Jadon Jones bt Jadon Spriggs 4-1
Kirsten Saltus bt William Leigh 6-3, 6-0
Druw Bascome bt Andy Voong 4-2
Tariq Simons bt Trey Mallory 6-4, 6-7, 6-2
Ciaran Duffy bt Yasmin MacLean 4-2
Andrew Paynter bt Dave Bart 6-4, 4-6, 10-6
Alvaro Triana bt Tyler Mallory 4-1
Jamie Talley bt Julia Mitchell 6-1, 6-2
Jovan Whitter bt Josh Chapkin 6-2, 6-0
Elliot Wilson bt Jamie Talley 6-7, 6-3, 6-3
Katerina Filip bt Benjamin Jones 6-2, 6-3
Bobby Bart bt Nick Cooper 6-0, 4-6, 13-11
Zach McGuire bt Jonny Bart 3-6, 7-6, 10-8
Cooper McGuire bt Kirsten Saltus 5-7, 6-3, 15-13
Renée Foggo Paynter bt Mellisa Trott 4-3
Finn Gallagher bt Quanae Lowe 4-2
Yasmin MacLean bt Yolanda Gallagher 4-3
Mikey MacLean bt Jaden Jones 4-2
Jadon Spriggs bt Tobiah Goodchild 4-3
Finn Gallagher bt Nadhira Durham 4-3
Mikey MacLean bt Yolanda Gallagher 4-3
Jadon Spriggs bt Renée Foggo Paynter 4-0
Alex Lefebvre bt Andre Carr 6-2, 2-6, 10-4
Morgan Lightbourne bt Victoria Stephens 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
Finote Hiwot bt Kaywell Outerbridge 4-2
Alvaro Triana bt Ciaran Duffy 4-0
Donn Trott bt Jamie Talley 7-5, 1-6, 10-4
Antonio Warner bt Andrew Paynter 7-5, 6-2
Jonny Bart bt Alex Lefebvre 6-1, 6-4
Max Robb bt Ethan Anderson 6-1, 6-3
Katerina Filip by Bobby Bart 6-2, 6-3
Benjamin Jones bt Nick Cooper 7-6, 6-2
Evi Robb bt Tobiah Goodchild 4-1
Antonio Warner bt Vincent Boisvert 7-5, 6-1
Zach McGuire bt Mathew Brookes 6-0, 6-4
Tyler Mallory bt Jadon Spriggs 4-1
Gavin Manders bt Scott Redmond 6-3, 6-1 (Open A semi-finals)
Tariq Simons bt Jovan Whitter 6-4, 7-5 (Open A semi-finals)
Druw Bascome bt Edel Faulkner 4-1
Tristan Petit bt Ciaran Duffy 4-2
Ethan Anderson bt Alvaro Triana 4-3
Ethan Anderson bt Tristan Petit 6-1
Druw Bascome bt Tyler Mallory 4-3
Romar Douglas bt Josh Chapkin 7-5, 6-2
Andy Voong wo Renée Paynter Foggo
Tariq Simons bt Gavin Manders 6-4, 7-5 (Open A final)
Kirsten Saltus bt Morgan Lightbourne 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 (women’s final)
Antonio Warner bt Cooper McGuire 6-3, 6-3 (Open B final)
Benjamin Jones bt Bobby Bart 6-7, 6-4, 10-2 (Open A consolation final)
Sebastian Pukk bt Jonny Bart 6-2, 6-3
Mike McGuire bt Zach McGuire 6-0, 5-7, 10-7
David Tavares bt Christopher Hardy 6-0, 3-6, 10-7
Ethan Anderson bt Alex Lefebvre 6-4, 4-1 retired