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Tariq Simons thrilled to retain his status as the island’s top player

Tariq Simons in action at the MTM Masters Invitational Tournament at Fairmont Southampton (Photograph by Lawrence Trott)

Tariq Simons says playing against his coach and mentor Gavin Manders always brings the best out of him.

The 20-year-old made these remarks following his hard-fought win over Manders in the Open A final of the MTM Singles Championships at the Fairmont Southampton courts at the weekend.

“I’m pleased to start the year with a win and to retain the No 1 ranking,” an elated Simons told The Royal Gazette.

“It’s always interesting playing Gavin in tournaments because he plays the game so well and because of the significant role he plays in my life and at MTM. He brings out the best in me every time for sure.”

Manders came out swinging and won the first set 3-6 to seize early control of the showdown pitting the tournament’s top seeds against each other.

“He came out playing well in the first set and I struggled to match him in the big points,” Simons added.

However, the top seed fought back to take the next two sets 6-3, 6-2 to clinch the title and retain his No 1 ranking.

“I had to dig deep and use some tools I have developed mentally to really make up ground in the beginning of the second set,” Simons said. “It was tough but I pulled through it.

“The third set was a matter of fitness, so I took that a bit more convincingly.”

Despite having come up just shy of glory, Manders says he is “blessed” to be able to still compete against an opponent 15 years his junior.

“Playing a young 20-year-old still in his prime and being able to get out there and compete at the highest level, I just feel blessed,” he said.

“I just feel blessed that at 35 I can still hang with the young guns and just really enjoy being out on the court.

“I continue to love the game and love to compete. Even though I lost it is still a win for me, still a win for MTM, and still a win for Bermuda tennis, because we are able to get out there and have another event, where it’s really been a struggle to get competition.”

Manders has been a huge influence for Simons both on and off the court.

“It started as a coach but definitely more of a mentor guiding him through, not just on the court, helping him with figuring out a lot of things off court as well,” he added.

The former top player reckons Simons has a bright future in the game.

“He is definitely coming into his own,” Manders said. “He’s a great champion and also a great mentor to the other children at the academy. He’s come a long way and has got a bright future ahead of him.”

Meanwhile, Ben Lines won the Elite B final via tie break over Sebastian Pukke.

Pukke won the opening set 3-6 before Lines bounced back to take the second 6-3 and send the match to a tie break, which he won 10-5.

Pukke bounced back to win the 16 and under boys title with a straight sets 6-1, 7-5 win over Zach McGuire respectively.

McGuire also shrugged off the defeat to Pukke to capture the 14 and under boys title via a straight sets 6-3, 6-2 win over Jaden Jones in the final.

Nadhira Durham won the 16 and under girls title after getting past Charlotte Lesage in straight sets 6-4, 6-1 in the final.

Tobiah Goodchild won the B title on a tie break over Robert Richardson. Richardson won the first set 2-6 before Goodchild took the second 6-2 to send the match to a tie break, which he won 10-2.

There was also redemption for Jones who won the boys 12 and under title after his opponent Raul Maldonaldo retired hurt in the final.

Manders reflected on another successful event, in what has been a challenging time.

“It was another beautiful week of tennis,“ he said. “A little bit of a smaller event than we usually have due to so much travelling and Covid restrictions.

“This is our 22nd event through the pandemic. I feel blessed to be able to use tennis as a vehicle to share our passion for the game and to promote physical and mental health.

“For our higher level players, it has also given them a chance to test their skills on a regular basis.

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Published January 11, 2022 at 7:59 am (Updated January 11, 2022 at 7:59 am)

Tariq Simons thrilled to retain his status as the island’s top player

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