Mallory outlines promise with senior title
Confirmation that the future of Bermuda tennis is bright came with the sensational result at the MTM Covid Open where 18-year-old Trey Mallory captured his first senior title.
Coming on the heels of fellow teen and Bermuda No 1 Tariq Simons winning the MTM Covid Championships in June, with Kristin Saltus cementing her new-found status as top woman after a second straight success, the new face of the game is taking hold.
It is enough to make tournament director and longtime former No 1 men's player Gavin Manders philosophical about being the losing finalist on each occasion.
“Trey, Tariq and Daniel Phillips are the future of Bermuda tennis,” the 34-year-old founder of Manders Tennis Management said. “At 106 entries, this was the biggest tournament in my lifetime.
“Even losing in the final, it was a win, win, win for Bermuda tennis and myself as the director of the tournament.”
He added: “We're going to continue to use this energy not just to help the tennis community but everyone to get some of this positive energy to get us through these stressful times.”
Mallory, who is ranked among the top 500 junior players in the world, strangely came into the tournament without a seeding because of a lack of local ranking points.
It did not take the teenager long to make a mockery of such draconian rules with a facile passage through the rounds before comprehensively beating Simons, the No 1 seed, 6-1, 6-1 and then wearing down Manders over three sets in the final, 5-7, 6-1, 6-0.
“It feels good to win,” Mallory said of his breakthrough triumph at this level. “I was slightly nervous going into the event; I have never played Gavin in a tournament match, and I knew just from my experiences travelling with Gavin at Davis Cup that it was going to be a battle.”
Like Simons before him, Mallory is respectful and appreciative of the contributions that Manders and others have made to his development.
He said: “I've been stuck home since the end of March due to the pandemic and thankful to have my dad [Ricky Mallory, a former Bermuda No 1 turned coach] work with me on the tactical side of my game, and I'm also grateful to Gavin and Jovan Whitter, of MTM, for all their input in training.”
Manders the player, who got off to a rousing start as he had done against Simons last month, accepted that the better man won.
“As a player, it's a tricky time for me,” he said. “I've got to get my body healed up to be able to compete with these younger guys.
“I definitely believe I still have what it takes to be at the top of the game, but it's going to take a little extra time for me to heal up.”
He added: “Trey was better man on the day; he deserved the win. It's his first title, so congratulations to him. He really handled the ebbs and flows in the match. Had I closed out the first set faster, I would have been in a better position for the second set, but he was just better.”
The women's field may not have had the volume of entries as did the men, but Saltus, 26, is firmly establishing herself as the one to beat.
“Getting to the finals again was definitely exciting,” said Saltus, who beat Morgan Lightbourne 6-3, 6-2 in the championship match.
But earlier in the semi-finals, she avenged defeat by Shelby Madeiros in the Open B draw.
She said: “My match against Shelby was exciting. I lost to her in the Open B, and that night I went home and said let it go. I went in with the mindset that I would do better. I enjoyed every minute of it. It was a growing point for me mentally.”
The tournament overall had to contend with intermittent bad weather, and Saltus accepted that the women's final suffered as a spectacle as a result.
“It could have been better,” she said. “We weren't playing our best tennis, but we did what we had to do for that day.”
Many of the island's top players will next reconvene for the Cup Match Classic Tournament at the WER Joell Tennis Stadium on July 25 and 26, followed by another MTM event at the Fairmont Southampton the week after the holiday.