The CNMI National Tennis Team added two more gold medals and a bronze as competition in the Northern Marianas Pacific Mini Games 2022 wrapped up last Friday at the American Memorial Park tennis courts.
ATP Tour veteran Colin Sinclair kicked things off for the wards of national coach Jeff Race by breezing past Papua New Guinea’s Matthew Stubbings in the finals of the men’s doubles, 6-0, 6-1.
There was extra motivation for the 27-year-old to beat the Stubbings, Sinclair’s teammate in the Pacific Oceania team in the Davis Cup tie in Estonia earlier in the year, as only the day before he and Isabel Herras lost to the No. 2 seed and Violet Apisah in the mixed doubles semifinals, denying him a fourth gold medal.
“I love it. It’s great to play Matty. We played last week in Guam and had practice matches leading up to the Games. Matt’s a great friend of mine and he beat me yesterday in the mixed doubles,” said Sinclair.
Stubbings, for his part, applauded Sinclair for a dominating game in the men’s singles gold medal game.
“You see why Colin is a Top 500 player. He’s just an unbelievable player. He’s just a good of a guy on court as he is off court. It was a pleasure to play him today.”
A couple of hours later, Sinclair was again on center court to team up with Robbie Schorr in the men’s doubles finals where they found themselves down 0-3 in the first set after both players lost their serves against Vanuatu’s Clement Mainguy and Aymeric Mara.
Vanuatu actually had a chance to close it out in the first set, but Mainguy double faulted twice serving at deuce with the score at 5-4 that allowed the CNMI to tie the set and Sinclair and Schorr would eventually win the next two games to salvage the first set win, 7-5.
The CNMI had all momentum on their side in the second and were ready to take the gold at 5-4, but allowed Mainguy and Mara to rally to tie the set at 5-5 before the Vanuatu pair eventually succumbed in the last two games to lose with the same score, 7-5.
Race simply admired Sinclair and Schorr’s fight-back especially early in the first set.
“These guys played with so much heart in the game. We were down 0-3 in the first set and they came back. It wasn’t easy. Those guys (Vanuatu) really wanted it bad and they’re really hungry. Colin and Robbie played just great down the stretch and I’m so proud of them,” he said.
Schorr said it was just an honor being part of a terrific match.
“What can I say it had everything in that match. It was a well-played match today and we fought to the very end. We played well and the crowd was behind us. Thank you and I love you guys.”
For Sinclair, he honestly thought the finals was not going the CNMI’s way.
“I thought we were screwed [when we were down 0-3 in the first set]. No, it was great and we fought back. It was good and I trust Robbie a lot to make plays and come up clutch in the end. Full credit to Robbie and it was a great match.”
Later in the day, Sinclair willed himself to play with Isabel Herras in the bronze medal game in the mixed doubles and the CNMI prevailed, 7-5, 7-5, against PNG’s Abigail Tere-Apisah and Mark Gibbons.
“It’s our last match of the Games and we wanted to go out with a strong finish. Although we’re very disappointed yesterday because we were leading 5-1 in the super tiebreaker for a chance to advance to the gold medal game. I’m very confident that have we had won that match we’ll get the gold medal today. Nevertheless, it’s an unbelievable match and we squeaked past Papua New Guinea and it happens to be the same score as the men’s doubles finals, 7-5, 7-5. So it’s our day to go with dozens,” said Race.
Isabel, who had several flirtations with a podium finish before the breakthrough in the mixed doubles, heaved a sigh of relief after finishing the Games not empty-handed.
“It feels great to finally get a medal after 10 long days of competition. It really feels good to be coming out with something. I’m dedicating this medal to all the people of Saipan and everyone who came to support us. It’s amazing to see all the people of Saipan, even those who don’t play tennis.”
She also paid tribute to Sinclair for his calming influence.
“He’s amazing and never gets mad and supportive. Great player and all-around good person!”
Sinclair, for his part, said the last day of tennis competition was the polar opposite of the day before.
“I feel tired. I’m tired but I’m really happy with how today went. Yesterday we had a bit of disappointment with the result of the mixed doubles. I was really happy to bounce back with my partners today to finish out the Games with three wins.”
The son of former longtime Saipan residents Peter and Kathryn Sinclair added that there was just no way he’d let Herras down.
“I’ve seen Issy battle here for 10 days and every time she came so close in the team event and just today for the women’s doubles she just missed out on a bronze. I thought we had a little hiccup there in the second and we had a little battle but I’m so happy to close it out,” said Sinclair.
On his long-awaited trip back to the island he grew up in, he said really can’t complain with everyone treating him like he never left.
“So far, so good. I love seeing just family and friends who I haven’t seen for a long, long time. It’s been a very special trip back and I hope to go back a lot sooner. Thank you to coach Jeff and thank you to Bobby (teammate and assistant coach Bobby Cruz) and thank you to the team and for everyone for coming out. Also Miss Lydia (Tan) she’s been awesome all week and Miss Karen (Ramsey).