That's the motto of the Record-Courier Portage County

By David Carducci Record-Courier staff writer Published:

That's the motto of the Record-Courier Portage County Open Tennis Tournament, which celebrated its 10th anniversary with the start of first-round play Monday at Kent Roosevelt High School.

While "young" may be in the tournament motto, being young is far from a requirement in the tournament.

Three-time doubles champion Gary Richey simply wrote the word "old" in the age section of his tournament application.

But Richey wasn't too old to reach the finals in the Men's Open Singles Division, beating hard-hitting,18-year-old Sanjeer Malik of Kent in straight sets 6-2, 6-3.

"I'm too old to play against these young kids," Richey joked after his match. "I'm about two times as old as these college kids."

But the owner of Union Sport, a company that has built most of the clay courts for the country clubs in Northeastern Ohio, used the type of strategy learned through years of experience in outlasting his younger opponent.

"I just kept the ball in play," said Richey, who spent two years as an assistant tennis coach at Hiram College. "It wasn't anything too spectacular. I was just fortunate enough to have him make a few mistakes. Whenever I got down, I just said to myself 'lets keep the ball in play.' I think I only hit two or three winners on ground strokes, and maybe a couple net winners and service winners all game.

Richey's opponent in the open division finals Saturday will be 42-year-old Steve Baggett of Kent, who triumphed despite being matched up against a player 25 years his junior.

Baggett defeated 18-year-old Kent Roosevelt senior and first-singles player Matt Kane in an exciting 5-7, 7-6, 7-5 match.

Marathons like that are typical when Baggett and Kane meet on the court.

"After last year's tournament, I've tried to get together to play with Matt every once in awhile to give him a little competition," said Baggett. "Just about every time we play, we usually split sets ... (Monday) was kind of a frustrating match. It seemed like it went in spurts. I'd go ahead 40-love, then he'd come back. Then he'd go up 40-love (in the next game) and I'd come back."

Baggett made the most important comeback of the match in the end, fighting off four match points by Kane for the victory.

Kane still has a chance to make some noise in the doubles bracket, where he will play with Kent Roosevelt teammate Jason Askew.

"It was pretty rough," said Kane. "Any time you lose four match points, that's just not good ... I don't know if it'll be much easier in doubles. I haven't been playing very much tennis lately, and neither has Jason. Tennis is the type of game where you have to play every single day to stay in shape."

In the Girls Combined Junior and Novice Division, 13-year-old Jennifer Farquhar of Ravenna defeated 8-year-old Shalersville resident Sarah Viau, 6-0, 6-0, and 13-year old Sarah Durkalski defeated 14-year-old Lindsay Wargo, 6-0, 6-2, in a battle of best friends from Kent.

Fellow Kent residents Arvind Rajamohan, 15, and Nicholas Makhani, both advanced in the Senior A Boys Division.

Rajamohan, a student at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, beat Ravenna No. 1 singles player Michael Fenstermacher, 6-2, 7-5, while Makhani defeated 15-year-old Chris Lesher, of Aurora, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.

In the Senior B Singles Division, Kent Roosevelt's Christopher Lang, 17, was a 6-0, 6-0 winner over Phil Oostdyk, 17, of Ravenna.

Also advancing in Senior B singles from Roosevelt was 16-year-old Ryan Caplinger, who defeated Ravenna's Jeff Fosnight, 11, in straight sets, 6-2, 6-0.

David Fosnight, of Ravenna, who was the runner-up to Kane in last year's open division, advanced in Men's A Singles with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Windsor Chan of Kent.

In the combined B and Recreational Singles Division, Ravenna resident Daniel Hahn defeated Kent resident George Barbuto, 6-3, 6-0, and Kent resident Imraan Bhatti defeated Brimfield resident Bill Feeterers, 6-4, 6-3.

"We've had a very good turnout," said Kent Roosevelt tennis coach and tournament director Kim Uhlik. "I haven't counted up all the players who are participating, but we have over 100 matches. This tournament has held its own. We reached our peak five or six years ago with 190 participants. Our first goal was to break even financially with the tournament, which we did for the first time last year. Now, the goal is to have over 200 people participate."

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