Amid numerous picnickers and blaring car stereos in Druid Hill Park, Josh Eventoff of Baltimore defeated Tom Bender of Woodlawn, 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-1, to win the men's singles championship of the Baltimore Open tennis tournament yesterday.
"This was a true test of somebody's concentration," said Eventoff, 25.
"But I enjoy all the excitement, the loose atmosphere. It takes the attention off of me."
But it was hard for Bender and Eventoff not to draw attention to themselves in their 2 1/2 -hour battle, which featured powerful ground strokes and finesse volleys.
Not bad for two players who are just getting back into competitive tennis.
Both Eventoff and Bender teach tennis in the Baltimore area. Both have taken time off from playing tournaments.
"I took off 12 months, no hitting at all, and I just recently started to come back and compete," Eventoff said.
Bender had a 5-3 lead in the first set, but Eventoff broke Bender and held serve twice to take a 6-5 lead. Bender held serve to force a tiebreaker, which Eventoff won, 7-5.
Bender, 26, rebounded to win the second set 6-3.
"In the second set, I got a little tentative," Eventoff said. "I think I just let him dictate [the match] for a few games."
Said Bender: "There was no rhyme or reason to the first set at all, but I found a rhythm from 2-2 on in the second set. Something clicked mentally and my feet started to move.
"Mentally I was doing things right in the second set, and in the third I never picked it up."
Eventoff held serve throughout the third set and repeatedly charged the net, winning most of his points off of volleys and overheads.
"My plan was to make him pass me [at the net] as much as possible," Eventoff said. "I think I just got a little more aggressive in the third set."
In the women's final, Jennifer Mowbray of Baltimore was awarded the title by default over Oriane Eriksen of Norway, who did not show up for the match.
American tennis is on the rise with a new generation of players -- Wimbledon champion Andre Agassi, Australian and French Open champion Jim Courier, 1991 U.S. Open champion Pete Sampras and 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang, to name a few.
But before there was Agassi or Courier, there was Aaron Krickstein, who turned pro 10 years ago at 14 and became the youngest player to win a professional tournament when, at 16, he won Tel Aviv.
Now Krickstein, the fourth seed at the NationsBank Classic that begins today in Washington, is at a crossroads in his injury-filled career, still looking for his first Grand Slam title.
"Sure it's hard when all of the guys -- Sampras, Chang, Agassi and Courier -- have all won Slams and I haven't won anything," said Krickstein, who turns 25 next month. "But maybe I'm not quite good enough.
"It's been a frustrating career for me -- a lot of ups and downs -- but all I can do is keep trying hard and, hopefully, not get too discouraged or too negative with myself."
Today's 7 p.m. feature match is between 14th seed Jim Grabb and Brian MacPhie, a wild-card entry who is a sophomore at Southern Cal.
Hall of Fame
In Newport, R.I., Mary Joe Fernandez beat U.S. Olympic doubles partner Zina Garrison in straight sets to win the Virginia Slims Hall of Fame Invitational.
In the men's final, defending champion Bryan Shelton beat Alex Antonitsch 6-4, 6-4.