Defending champion Todd Dominiak bested James O'Connell to win his ninth City of Toledo Singles Championship, despite having to overcome a fall, cuts, leg cramps and heat.
Todd Dominiak is finally beginning to show his age.
The signs are rather obvious. He's slowing down and his body doesn't want to recover from the usual stiffness and fatigue.
But his wisdom remains - even though he can't tell you how he won his fifth consecutive City Singles Championship yesterday at the Toledo Tennis Club.
Despite battling cramps that had him limping, cuts to his leg, heat, and an opponent half his age, the 40-year-old Dominiak won his ninth career title here, a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win over former St. Francis great James O'Connell.
Considering the circumstances, this title just might mean more than any of the others.
"As far as not realizing how I won that match, it's probably No. 1," said Dominiak, who won his first championship in 1988.
JoEllen Kaufman defeated Kelly O'Connell in women's singles, winning the last 12 games. It was the first time she competed.
The women's tournament was won by second-seed Jo-Ellen Kaufman, who topped Kelly O'Connell - James' younger sister - 6-2, 6-0.
Entering the final set, there was absolutely no evidence that suggested Dominiak would end up victorious. He was tiring from the heat, while O'Connell was heating up, having won the three previous games. To compound matters, Dominiak hurt himself after falling on the final point of the second set. He reopened a cut on his right knee during the fall, and while recovering, he began cramping in his leg.
He limped throughout the entire third set.
"I feel for him because I know he doesn't know how he lost that match, but he's going to win a lot of these playing like that," Dominiak said of O'Connell, who won a state doubles title at St. Francis in 2003. "In the middle of the match I had thoughts about whether I should be out here cramping. Maybe it's not worth it anymore."
Was that a hint that the Todd Dominiak Era ended yesterday?
"I'm going to think about that," he said. "I always say, 'yes' to that question, but I think if I'm going to play I have to go out there with the mindset that I can't just chase balls down at age 41 and hope the other guy makes errors."
But in reality, that's what happened in the third set. Dominiak's injury prevented him from chasing O'Connell's shots, so instead, he placed his shots to make O'Connell run.
That aside, O'Connell still was in great position to win the match. With the score tied 4-4 he went up 40-30 before losing when he doubled faulted down an advantage. The next game he led 40-love only to watch Dominiak respond by winning the next five points. And ultimately the match.
"If I don't play again then the nine [titles] are plenty for me," he said. "It's more than I ever thought I'd get."
O'Connell, who is entering his junior season at Dayton, believes an error of consequence was made by the umpire in the third set with the scored tied 3-3. Dominiak led 30-15, when his return was clearly heading out-of-bounds. O'Connell thought he won the point, but the umpire stepped in and said he had hit the ball before it touched the ground. O'Connell vehemently disagreed with the call, and Dominiak ultimately won the game.
"If I would have won that game, I would have won the whole thing," O'Connell said. "That was the turn right there."
"If I saw it clearly I would have given him the point," Dominiak said. "That was a telling call because I think mentally that was tough on him."
There was far less drama during the women's final.
Kaufman, playing in her first City Singles Championship, won the final 12 games for a decisive victory over the teenager O'Connell. O'Connell, the No. 1 seed, went up 2-0 in the first set before Kaufman adopted a more conservative approach.
"I just realized I needed to settle down and hit some more balls in play and let her make some mistakes," said Kaufman, known as JoEllen Walker when she starred at Napoleon in the early 90s. "Out here in the heat I wasn't going to be able to hit the ball hard and put the ball away. I had to let her make the mistakes."
It was the second straight runner-up finish for O'Connell, who is entering her senior year at St. Ursula. In 2005 she fell in straight sets to Neela Vaez, who did not enter the competition despite winning titles in each of the past three years.
"I could have played a lot better," she said. I thought it would be a lot closer than that. I couldn't get out of the groove I was in."
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