Temperatures in the mid-90s combined with the area's high humidity was just another obstacle players had to contend with in addition to some of the county's best netters at Kent State University's Engleman Courts.
The annual seven day tournament wraps up its 12th successful year this morning with several championship matches in both singles and doubles categories.
Highlighting Saturday's action was the Men's A Division final, which, at least on paper, appeared to be an easy battle for youth against a seasoned tournament player.
The heat, combined with Dave Fosnight's booming first serve, held youth at bay for a while during the early afternoon match. After two hours and very little breeze, eventually champion Matt Kane earned a hard-fought 6-4, 6-4 victory.
The former Kent Roosevelt standout Kane, who last season advanced to the high school district tournament, looked early on to be on his way to a quick victory over the always competitive Fosnight, who seems to make a great run at the Men's A Division title year after year.
Fosnight's gameplan against Kane called for a serve with a little spin, saying later that he figured this would be his best offense against an opponent who has more experience playing a younger game now dominated by power. After Kane broke Fosnight's first two service games it was time for a change in strategy.
"In the opening two games, I decided to serve up a little more spin ... and he broke them," said Fosnight. "I said 'wow that's not working.' So I moved to a harder serve and had some success."
The match was not the first for the two who have matched up several times during past Record-Courier Portage County Open Tennis Tournaments.
After two breaks, it seemed as though Fosnight would be quick work for Kane, but once Fosnight changed his strategy the match became much more competitive and exciting to watch. As Fosnight held serve, Kane did everything in his power to make him earn points. On volleys, Kane would charge the net and make Fosnight run almost the length of the court to return balls. Kane continued to get stronger, not stopping during side switches for a drink of water but rather running to the baseline to wait for the next game.
But that soon changed.
"It was as hot as an oven out there," said Fosnight when exiting the court.
Holding a comfortable lead, the temperatures seemed to affect Kane's game.
After appearing confident and energized he quickly showed signs that the heat was getting to him. Between switches he took longer water breaks and at one point even sat down to catch his breath.
Fosnight on the other hand became stronger. The stronger, harder service game that past opponents have feared finally reappeared late in the first set. The harder serve allowed him more time to recover and move to the net grooving some winners down the sidelines right out of Kane's reach.
It also helped that Kane, showing some signs of exhaustion as he showed his frustration, committed a host of unforced errors to allow Fosnight to stay within striking distance. During a stretch between the first and second sets, Fosnight won six of 10 games.
"That was just one of those matches that you have to make sure you're well hydrated for. You just have to ignore the heat and play through it," said Kane.
In the second set, Kane appeared to regain his composure during a long sixth game in which there were nearly 14 deuces. Fosnight had the chance to win the game and even the set score at 3-3, but could not.
Kane showed the mental and physical toughness that made him Kent Roosevelt's No. 1 player throughout last season as he went on to win the bracket championship.
"Matt's a great player and has all the tools," said Fosnight, an Ohio Wesleyan College graduate, who wished Kane well as he enters Ohio Wesleyan in the fall. "It's always fun playing out here."
Today, in addition to several finals, the annual Shayler Engraving's Harry DeVault Award will be presented during opening ceremonies. The award is presented to a player who has demonstrated excellence, sportsmanship and overcome some odds when playing in this year's tournament, such as playing in a higher division due to not enough participation in their age bracket, tournament director Kim Uhlik said.
"Sometimes we go against tough odds and have to rise to the occasion," Uhlik said. "That's the essence of sports."
RECORD-COURIER PORTAGE COUNTY OPEN TENNIS TOURNAMENT
(At Kent State University's Engleman Tennis Courts)
Men's Combined 35-55 Singles Final
Rich Ambrose def. Bill Konnert, scores not available
Mixed Doubles A Semifinal
Linda Williams/Don Kluth def. Andy Demeza/Rhonda Mitchell 6-2, 6-4
Mixed Doubles B Semifinal
Pete Flexer/Rachel McMahon def. Ed Whitehouse/Ann Bolex 6-1, 6-1
Men's Combined A Doubles Final
Brian Triola/Craig Triola def. Steve Baggett/Gary Richey 6-4, 6-4
Men's Combined A Singles Final
Matt Kane def. Dave Fosnight 6-4, 6-4
Senior Youth Men's Doubles Final
Jimmy Ensminger/Ray Berry def. Nathan Perry/Rob Rufener 4-6, 6-4, 6-1