Monday, July 19, 2004

Luzhanska wins title; Thomas defeats Wolf

Met tennis

By Alex Blumer
Enquirer contributor

When Eric Thomas was young, he used to watch the Met every summer at Lunken Playfield, imagining himself winning it all some day.

Sunday, that dream came true for the 19-year-old Walnut Hills grad, as Thomas unseated Met legend Jeff Wolf, 6-4, 6-1, to claim the Thomas E. Price Metropolitan Tennis Championship.

Eric Thomas returns the ball during the final round of Men's Singles in the Thomas E. Price Metropolitan Men's Tournament at Lunken Playfield.
(Enquirer photo/SARAH CONARD)
"The Wolf name in Cincinnati tennis is huge," said Thomas, who will be a sophomore at Brown University.

"When I saw him in the draw, I was like, 'I want a shot at Jeff,' and I got it. Luckily, I brought my game out today."

Thomas, who turns 20 in August, just missed becoming the youngest Met men's singles champion ever.

That distinction is still held by John D. Peckskamp, who was 19 and two months when he won in 1971.

In the women's final, Tania Luzhanska avenged her lone career Met defeat by overpowering Kara Molony-Hussey 6-3, 6-2 for her second Met singles title.

"I was feeling great out there, everything was just working," said Luzhanska.

Luzhanska's three-set loss to Molony-Hussey in last year's final was the only time the 19-year-old has lost at Lunken, as she won it all in 2001 and was injured in 2002.

Tania Luzhanska won the final round of the Women's Singles in the Thomas E. Price Metropolitan Tournament at Lunken Playfield.
(Enquirer photo/SARAH CONARD)
Luzhanska is now automatically entered into the Aug. 14 qualifier for the Western and Southern Financial Women's Open in Mason.

The top-seeded Wolf finally met his match in Thomas, who didn't lose a set the entire tournament as the No. 2 seed.

Thomas was able to pressure Wolf's vaunted lefty serve from the very start, breaking him to begin the match.

But Wolf, a record six-time Met singles champ, clawed back to make it 3-3.

Thomas responded with a critical break to go up 4-3 and serve out the set.

"I thought it was going to be quite a struggle, and then I got that break right back," said Thomas.

"I could feel the momentum just come onto my side, and I just kept it going."

Molony-Hussey opened the women's final, her seventh in a row, with an early break of Luzhanska's serve that made it 2-1.

But the Ukranian-born Luzhanska would win five of the next six games to take the first set.

"In the beginning, it was much tougher, she did a really good job," said Luzhanska, who trains in Florida and has family in Sharonville.

"I didn't think about the score. I just kept fighting and doing my best."

"I came out with the right game plan," said Molony-Hussey.

"I just kind of lost it a little bit and she got some confidence."

Although Luzhanska looked like she might pull away after breaking to begin the second set, Molony-Hussey tied it at 2-all.

That would be the last game the defending champ would win, however, as Luzhanska captured the last four games of the match as light rain fell.

Sunday marked the last Met singles match for Wolf, who still plans to seek a 16th Met doubles title with Dan Kronauge next year.

But the 38-year-old leaves behind a worthy successor.

"He's a deserving champion; he worked hard for it," said Wolf of Thomas.

"When I was 20 and I was trying to get the torch, I felt like I took it, and he took it, too, today."

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