Gavin Manders is rounding back into form just in time for the Davis Cup.
He won the William Way Memorial Tournament this weekend with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over good friend and fellow Davis Cup teammate David Thomas in the final.
The triumph helped Manders reclaim the #1 ranking in Bermuda more than a year after an injury saw him have to push himself to even be able to play the sport.
Manders was #1 up to the end of 2012 when an accident in November, which saw him lose his pinky toe, knocked him off the top spot as he was sidelined.
“That year, I only played one tournament and Dave won the William Way memorial last year. We also played in the finals of the Deloitte where I won, but he was the #1 for 2013.”
Manders said the road to recovery was a bit “overwhelming, but I never thought I couldn’t do it.”
He had a lot of support as Craig Brown from Apex Sport, his father Arnold, his personal coach Sam Maybury and national team coach Ricky Mallory all rallied behind him.
“I had a lot of people that helped me get back. My mom was a big support for me.”
The once-again #1 said: “When you do a lot of hard work and you have a passion for a sport. I wasn’t sure I was going to get back to it, but I did and it was great.
“It’s one thing to get there and it’s another to keep it and that’s my goal. My goal is to hold it as long as possible.”
Manders said the most difficult part was being able to move like he used to before he lost his toe.
“I still have back problems. At the beginning stages, I wasn’t sure if I would be physically able to do it. Mentally, I knew I would be there, but I had to believe I had it physically in me to come back and do it.”
He said his victory on Sunday had “some of the highest quality tennis that I’ve been a part of in a tournament”. Manders said since the duo train together “we know what to expect from each other. I knew I had to stick in there and weather the storm because he hits a really big ball. I had to make sure I was loose enough as I am still dealing with the back. It stiffens up if I don’t keep moving. At the end of the day, it was who could stay focused the longest.”
Manders said he doesn’t recall what kind of shot he hit to win the match, but he does recall feeling “relieved just because I have been through so much. It had flashbacks from everything I had been through and everyone that helped me. It was very emotional, even though I didn’t show it that much.
“It was relief that I’m finally back and can now move forward and represent Bermuda in the Davis Cup.”
The team leaves on May 31 to go to Puerto Rico and will play in an 11-team tournament that also features Jamaica, Costa Rica, Bahamas, Trinidad, Panama and Honduras, among others.
Besides Manders and Thomas, Jensen Bascome and Neil Towlson will represent Bermuda. Ricky Mallory will be the head coach.