PwC Invite served up the best

The 2013 PwC Cayman Men’s Invitational Championships, hosted by the Cayman Islands Tennis Club, finally had a worthy crowd to watch the best singles match that Grand Cayman has ever seen.

They all came out on Saturday afternoon in South Sound to pay their respects to two marquee players in the championship match. Denis Zivkovic, No. 296 in the world, competed against the Canadian, Philip Bester.

American Zivkovic, the No. 1 seed in the PwC, due to his Association of Tennis Players ranking, had a tough foe in Bester, who was once world ranked No. 220.

Both are in their prime and still have the ambition to make the world’s top 128 so that they can compete in a grand slam. The final went quickly, but it was incredibly exciting to the big crowd.

Bester ended up defeating Zivkovic 6-3, 7-6 (7-4). The second set was as close as it gets, decided on a tie breaker.

Tennis club director and organiser Rob Seward said: “Both these guys had a great experience in Cayman and both have said they would like to come back. Let’s all hope that it will happen because it is great for the sport and for the island and for the region.”

Following the singles there were two doubles matches to top off the final evening. In the finals, the Jamaican brothers from Montego Bay, Marcus and McCoy Malcolm, faced an extremely tough duo in Zivkovic and Italy’s Stefanno Ianni, who have had a doubles ranking in the world’s top 150.

Ianni, last year’s doubles champ, was partnered with a stronger partner this time. Two nights earlier, the Malcolms might have had their best result in doubles, beating Bester and Thomas Neuert, who is director of tennis at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.

“On Saturday though they were playing in another league, no offence to the Malcolms,” Seward said. “They turned out to be the best doubles team to ever play in Cayman.” The Jamaicans were defeated 6-1, 6-0 with barely a rally lasting more than a few shots.

Playing off for third and fourth place were Bester and Neuert versus Eduardo Torres and Mica Koll. Bester and Neuert won 6-4, 6-2. Torres used to live in Cayman.

In the singles semifinals, the previous night Zivkovic met the No. 4 seed McCoy Malcolm. The more experienced Zivkovic defeated the Jamaican 6-2, 6-1.

It was a tougher match than the score suggests. Some big points were the deciding factor in the first set.

Then Zivkovic found his rhythm in the second set. He has played many more big time tournaments than his opponent, who was the losing finalist at last year’s PwC Cayman Men’s Invite.

During the second match, on paper the match should have been memorable, and the second set turned out to be a barn burner.

Bester, the Canadian Davis Cup regular, was facing the veteran Ianni.

In the first set, Bester was rolling, but once Ianni found his game the match became more exciting.

The second set was a tough tie-breaker to decide the winner and the fans were hoping for a third set thriller.

Ultimately, Bester, a late entry to the tournament, edged Ianni 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) for victory.

Seward said: “I’m sure if Stefanno had played the tie-breaker the second time he would have been a little more offensive, instead of conservative.

“However, sometimes it is just a very small fraction that make one or the other win a match.

“I give a special thank you to PwC, the primary sponsor of this great tournament. They have sponsored this tournament for the last seven years and each time it has seen more and more talented players come.

“It is a great partnership that PwC has with the Cayman Islands Tennis Club because they are supporting the game we all love and making this great event a regional attraction. I also thank Cayman National Bank for their second year of sponsorship.

“Thank you, too, to all of the members of the tennis club for letting us to be able to support such a fantastic event. We have a great venue to be proud of, so it is great to let other people cherish it.”

It was a fitting finale to two weeks of wonderful play. In the PwC Open the previous Saturday, Rob Weins beat Richard Harrison in a pulsating three set match. Frank Pagelsdorf won the PwC Open men’s over 50 title, the men’s doubles crown went to Mica Koll and Ilian Nachev, the women’s doubles was won by Maria Alberga and Manisha Jha and the mixed doubles title was won by Weins and Fleur Vagniez.

Seward also thanked the tennis club’s board of directors for their support. “It is a lot of long hours and hard work but it is all worth it at the end.”

He is also grateful to coach Dale Avery for his assistance in the tournament and for designing this year’s tournament shirt. Peter O’Leary was given props for assisting in the umpiring.

“A special thanks to the families and the people that have housed the players during their stay. To be honest, if it was not for you, we would not be able to have such a tournament.

“Although the guys are great and all, it would be very difficult for them to spend the money in a hotel. Thank you very much to the Cummers, the Bjuros and Dr. Gerard Christian for accommodating them in your homes. Also thanks to Boss Hoggs BBQ and Caribo’s for providing great food.”