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August 19, 2008 09:14 PM

Walker works hard for top prize

By ROCKY STANLEY — The Independent

Ashland The past two years, Patrick Walker hardly broke a sweat in the Men’s Open singles final of the Ashland City Tennis Championships.

This time, it wasn’t so easy.

Jeff Rutherford, an All-Ohio Valley Conference player at Eastern Illinois University, made Walker dig deeper on Sunday afternoon at the Ashland Tennis Center.

Walker, a 22-year-old from Huntington, found what he needed and came away with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory after three hours on the court.

“He’s pretty good,’’ Walker said of Rutherford, a Richmond, Ky., native who plays No. 1 singles for his college team. He has a solid game, and he’s a scrapper.’’

Rutherford only carries about 145 pounds on his 5-foot-10 frame, but he’s like hitting against a backboard — most everything comes back.

“Guys like that can be pretty tough,’’ Walker said. “They don’t give you much pace to work with.’’

Walker pounded two aces in taking the opening game, but the first set quickly developed into a battle of long points and deuce games. Rutherford broke Walker’s serve for a 4-3 lead and went on to take the set.

“I was trying to get as many balls back as a I could,’’ Rutherford said. “I wanted to keep the ball deep and maybe make him go for shots a little more.’’

It worked for a while.

“He did a great job getting shots back,’’ Walker said. “My forehand was not quite there today. It threw me off a little.’’

Two things changed in the second set. Walker mixed up his game, occasionally coming to the net while not going for the big shot as often. Meanwhile, Rutherford developed stomach trouble in the latter stages of the set.

Walker made some nice volleys to break a 5-5 tie, then ripped a couple of winners to break Rutherford’s serve and force a third set.

“(Walker) played tough through the match,’’ Rutherford said. “He hits a real good ball. As the second set went on, I had a little stomach problem that was mostly due to the heat.’’

Rutherford managed to open the final set with a service break. Down 2-1, he pulled even with a passing shot but Walker took control from there using his arsenal of shots.

“I didn’t have much in the tank,’’ Rutherford said. “If I was going to be chasing down balls, there’s no way I was going to win the match. Walker is too good of a player. In the third set he played real smooth. He hit a few drop shots knowing I was dead.’’

Walker was happy to extend his streak of city titles with the strong finish.

“It’s a good feeling winning it three times in a row,’’ he said. “This is a fun tournament. I love it, especially because I get to see a lot of people that I know.’’

As a bonus, the tournament added prize money this year for the Men’s Open winner and runner-up. Walker picked up $150.

“If they do that every year, they will attract more and more people,’’ he said.

Walker, who now teaches tennis lessons in Charleston, W.Va., has some experience with the pro Futures circuit. He said he might enter a Louisville event in October.

Walker defeated Morehead State player Glen Medcalf in the semifinals. Rutherford reached the finals with a win over buddy Preston Freeman, a former Ashland tennis and soccer standout now playing at Anderson University. Rutherford and Freeman often traveled together as junior players and Rutherford stayed with the Freeman family this weekend.

“I can’t thank them enough,’’ Rutherford said. “This is a great tournament. I’m glad I could come and play this kind of competition.’’

Sarah Budress of Huntington won the top women’s singles division — advanced — by defeating Portsmouth seventh-grader Ali Miller 6-3, 6-3 in the finals.

Budress, 18, is a member of the Hollins University tennis team in Roanoke, Va., and will be entering her sophomore year.

She also posted weekend wins over Alice Tucker and Lauren Phelps at the ATC.

“I think I played well,’’ Budress said. “I tried to be really patient with my shots.’’

The 22nd annual tournament drew a record 221 entries.

“We had an excellent turnout and great weather,’’ said ATC director Jerry Groce, who won the Men’s 8.0 doubles title with Brian Delcotto and also came out on top in the parent-child division with son Kyle.

ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at or (606) 326-2671


2008 Ashland City Champions

Men's Open Singles-Patrick Walker, Huntington, WV

Men's Advanced Singles- Ian Hughes, Grayson, KY

Men's Intermediate Singles-Bradley Twohig, Huntington, WV

Men's Novice Singles- Robby Krick, Ashland, KY

Women's Advanced Singles-Sarah Budress, Huntington, WV

Women's Intermediate Singles- Emily Griffith, Ashland, KY

Women's Novice Singles-Betty Guess, Paintsville, KY

Men's Open Doubles- Chad Pierron, Wheelersburg, OH & Lavell Medcalf, Ironton, OH

Men's 8.0 Doubles- Jerry Groce, Ashland, KY & Brian Delcotto, Huntington, WV

Men's 7.0 Doubles- Wes Bussey, Franklin Furnace,OH & Bob Dever, Wheelersburg, OH

Men's 6.0 Doubles-Donnie Kinnan, Ironton, OH & John McGuire, Grayson, KY

Women's 8.0 Doubles- Jamie McCorkle, Wheelersburg, OH & Paige Missler, Wheelersburg, OH

Women's 7.0 Doubles- Sandra Overstreet, Ashland, KY & Trish Robinette Ashland, KY

Women's 6.0 Doubles-Leighann White Russell, KY & Sonya Muncy Russell, KY

Women's 5.0 Doubles-Alyssa Farmer & Sandra Overstreet, Ashland,KY

Open Mixed Doubles- Nathan Martin, Louisa, KY & Kelsey Hensley, Ashland, KY

8.0 Mixed Doubles-Nick Barr, Charleston, WV & Susan Arbogast, Charleston, WV

7.0 Mixed Doubles- Robbie Downs, Ironton, OH & Halee Hilgenberg, Ironton, OH

6.0 Mixed Doubles- Sam Lewis, Naples, FL & Helen Johnson, Ashland, KY

5.0 Mixed Doubles- Parker May, West Liberty, KY & Lara May Vest, West Liberty, KY

Parent Child- Kyle Groce, Ashland, KY & Jerry Groce, Ashland, KY


Congratulations to everyone!

Women's Advanced Singles-Sarah Budress, Huntington, WV