Tariq Simons outwits Trey Mallory to lift Masters Invitational title and $1,000 first prize
Tariq Simons was crowned the MTM Masters Invitational champion after he prevailed in straight sets against Trey Mallory at the Fairmont Southampton on Saturday.
In an encounter between the tournament’s top two seeds, the match more than lived up to its top billing and proved as much of a battle of wits as it did a complete contrast in styles.
Ultimately, the counter-attacking style of top seed Simons proved the winning formula, nullifying Mallory’s power in a 6-2, 7-6 success that brought a $1,000 windfall in prize money.
“The first set was really important, especially against someone like Trey,” Simons said. “He can be so dominant from a winning position and I’ve been on the end of some heavy defeats to him before, so I wanted to avoid that. Thankfully, I got the better of him today.
“Our styles are almost a complete contrast. I’m happy to grind out rallies and points, and Trey looks to blast his way past people. I’m glad I managed to minimise that part of his game as much as I did, and came away with the victory.”
That contrast in styles was evident from the outset as Simons was more than content to get embroiled in long baseline rallies, almost with the intention of waiting for his opponent to make a mistake.
It was a tactic that proved effective, as Simons enticed a visibly frustrated Mallory into big forehand shots that either dropped the wrong side of the sideline and baseline or crashed into the net. The strategy led to two breaks of serve for Simons to literally roar into a 5-1 first-set lead.
Despite closing to 5-2, Mallory was ultimately punished for not only the inconsistency of his usually reliable forehand but also a number of unforgivable double faults as Simons wrapped up the opening set.
To his credit, where he could have easily crumbled in the second set, Mallory showed his resilience with an early break to surge into a 2-0 lead.
However, Simons again demonstrated his mental endurance, battling back in boisterous fashion, meeting each of the four successive games he won with a resounding cheer, not only in celebration but as a clear provocation to get into the head of Mallory.
Despite the mind games, and again to his credit, Mallory refused to lay down and quietly went about his business, winning the next two games, including the eighth where he kept his composure despite almost failing to capitalise on three break points.
The momentum continued to swing, with Simons again breaking before spurning his first championship point with Mallory breaking back to level the set at 5-5.
The No 1 seed then broke once again to hand himself the opportunity to serve for the match. However, for the first time in the game it was Simons who started to show nerves — missing shots and double faulting — to hand the game to Mallory and force a tie-break.
It looked as though the title would be wrapped up after Simons raced into a 5-1 lead, only for Mallory to once again dig in and show his own mental durability to battle back to 5-4.
However, after failing to seize the initiative, and having already spurned two championship points, Simons regained his composure and won the next point to stand at on the verge of the title for a third time.
At the crucial time, he stayed true to his original tactic as a another tentative rally ended with Mallory volleying too deep to finally conclude the match and hand Simons his fifth tournament victory out of six this year and cement his place as Bermuda’s No 1 player.
Reflecting on the thrilling finale to the match, Simons cited his own mental resilience as the deciding factor in his title glory as he spoke of the significance of being the island’s top player.
“The mental side of the game, I feel, is one of my biggest strengths,” the 19-year-old said. “I’ve worked a lot on that sort of the thing in the past and when it comes to tight points in matches, I need every little advantage I can get.
“It can be difficult in those times when you fail to capitalise on those key moments. I’ve had that in the past where I’ve saved match points, and today it was the other way round. It can feel like things are going against you, but you have to just keep going.
“Being recognised as the island’s No 1 means a lot. I feel myself and Trey are holding up the standards of Bermuda tennis and I’m happy to be playing my part.
“It can be quite a lot of pressure at our age, but I feel like it will only make us better in the long run and, honestly, I love it. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”