MORRISON / BLADE PHOTO Enlarge
Score one for court savvy, experience and an unerring ability to hit the shots when they counted most.
Actually, seven, which is the number of Toledo Tennis Men's Singles championships Todd Dominiak now owns after defeating Shaul Aloni 6-4, 6-3 yesterday at the Toledo Tennis Club. Dominiak, co-owner and head professional at Laurel Hill, won his third straight title to tie the record for most men's city singles championships, set by the late Connie Ohl in 1934 and equaled by the late Ed Rathbun (1954) and Mike Ducey (1976).
"To me that's a huge deal," Dominiak said. "I didn't start playing tennis till I was 15, and I never thought at that point that I'd ever have a chance to advance many rounds in this tournament.
"I just feel blessed to feel young enough to play in this and have my name with the likes of Mike Ducey, Rathbun and Ohl. It's going to take almost the whole year for me to grasp that concept in my head."
Aloni - a native of Israel who came to the United States in 1997 and played for Southview, Boca Raton (Fla.) Prep and Arizona State University - finished as runner-up for the third straight year.
"I was trying to attack," the 23-year-old Shadow Valley coach said of his strategy for the rematch, "but, unfortunately, I was maybe a little bit nervous. I hit pretty short balls and I was slicing off my back[hand] and my serve wasn't working too well. It wasn't my day today."
Aloni hit a barrage of winners cross-court and down the line, but succeeded in getting only 26 of 58 first serves in and double faulted four times.
Dominiak, who also holds three city doubles and eight mixed doubles titles and also won a national 35-and-over clay-court doubles title with Jim Kaser in 2002, faltered at times but was much more successful in his service - 15 service winners to Aloni's 1 - and at dictating play.
After Aloni broke Dominiak in the fourth game to go up 3-1, the champ broke right back, held service and broke Aloni again to go up 4-3. Dominiak faltered on his next service as Aloni hit a crisp forehand winner for add-out and Dominiak sailed a return long on break point.
But the seven-time champion didn't allow Aloni a point on the following service, hitting a nice drop shot and strong forehand for consecutive points. He then served out the set.
"Early in the first set I didn't think I did a very good job of [dictating points]," Dominiak said. "I didn't feel I was playing as clean as I would like to play, meaning I thought I made too many weird errors just out of nowhere.
"I never really felt that comfortable on the court.
"But it seems like I won the points I needed to win. I didn't play as crisp throughout the match, but I won the right points.
"And maybe that's experience, I don't know."
After getting in 26 of 29 first serves in the first set, Dominiak faltered some in the second (29 of 43). But he broke Aloni again to go up 3-2 in the second set, then held firm to fight off four break points in the second of two straight lengthy service games before breaking Aloni again for the match.
"The one time I served very well, I thought, was when I faced a bunch of break points," Dominiak said. "Every time I needed to there I was able to hit a good first serve. I would call it not probably great serving throughout, but maybe timely serving.
"When I held on that game, I thought that was it. I thought that was a back-breaker right there."
On the women's side, Notre Dame Academy junior-to-be Neela Vaez, thought to be the youngest City champion ever when she won last year, defeated 1996 champ Isobel Tracy 6-2, 6-2.
"I'm going to play every year, so I'm going to look forward to [winning the championship] for years," said Vaez.
"Everything was working. She was playing defensively and popping up a lot of easy balls to put away, and my serve was on."
Contact Craig Mantey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6110.