Butler aces big title

Simon Butler has emerged from a strong pack as the new supremo in the highly competitive 14-and-under division of the junior tennis circuit.

Playing in the second tournament of the season, Butler, just 13, lived up to the promise of his number-one seeding by beating Daniel Reid in the final. Butler’s path was smoothed by the absence of Luca Polloni, who moved up to the 17-and-under division.

This was Butler’s first tournament win in the PricewaterhouseCoopers-sponsored circuit. “He was delighted, I’ve never seen him so happy,” said his mother Maria.

Coached by local pros Eduardo Torres and Rob Seward, Cayman Prep student Butler isn’t just a strong tennis player, he’s also well known for his prowess as a swimmer on the Cayman national team. On his way to the final in this knockout tournament, Butler cruised comfortably past Matteo Polloni (8-4) and Josh Bolland (8-3) before meeting Daniel Reid.

Reid’s long hours of practice, both on court and with coaches Torres and Dale Avery, doubtlessly contributed to his consistent play as he posted wins over Nicholas Leonard (8-4) and Ben Ashman, whom he squeaked past after the closest of tie-breaks in the semi-final. But in the final, Butler proved he had the upper hand with an 8-5 score.

Seward said Butler showed a “good level of thoughtfulness on the court”, with his mind focused on thinking about each point and how to win that point.

“This is the biggest improvement that I have seen in his game since his recent return to the CI Tennis Club’s Junior Programme,” said Seward. “He was able to succeed in beating a much-improved Daniel Reid in the finals. The next thing for Simon is to work on is his serve and his net play.”

Star junior player Alex Leonard, 16, competed in a field of four in the 17-and-under division. He made short work (8-1) of Luca Polloni., 14, before meeting Daniel Reid’s elder brother Marc in the final.

Reid, who had edged past William Hayward with an 8-6 win before meeting Leonard, put up a great fight, but eventually succumbed 5-8. Leonard is dominating his age group this season thanks to the absence of last year’s 16-and-under champion, Morgan Hayward.

“Marc Reid’s tennis has improved a lot since he starting taking lessons from Dale Avery in the past few months,” Seward said. “He and Alex Leonard had a close match.”

Uber-competitive St. Ignatius student Nicholas Polloni surprised nobody by winning the 11-and-under division from a field of seven players. His intense rivalry with his elder brother, Matteo, for the top spot in this age-group hit the buffers when Matteo graduated to the 14-and-under division for this tournament, leaving Nicholas with no seriously threatening foes.

James Priaulx managed to take one game off him in their semi-final match and a score of 8-2 in the final against Reese Hoeksema again proved Polloni’s indubitable talents.

Prep pupil Nathan McLaughlin also impressed in this division. He took out number-two seed Callum Theaker (8-7) before going down 7-8 to Hoeksema in the semi finals.

Winners of the consolation draw in each age group were William Hayward, Nicholas Leonard and Callum Theaker. The tournament was held at the CI Tennis Club in South Sound.

The PwC-sponsored junior tennis circuit is run by the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands, in co-operation with the islands’ professional tennis coaches.

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