When Alex Gravina was a young tennis player in Toronto, he would go over to Adam Baranowski's house just to admire his mentor's various trophies and medals. To Gravina, it seemed that every weekend Baranowski would be off to another junior tournament and bringing home the top prize.
Yesterday, Gravina kept his childhood idol from adding to his list of accomplishments at the 101st annual $12,500 Arby's Manitoba Open Tennis Championships at the Kildonan Tennis Club.
"On a personal level, it was definitely a match that was bit of a dream come true," said the 26-year-old Gravina, who claimed his second consecutive Manitoba Open men's singles title by beating Baranowski 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-4 in a two and a half hour marathon final. "Everything sort of came together in the moment. I was able to forget about the past and everything worked for me."
Meanwhile, Kyla McNicol claimed her fourth Manitoba Open women's singles crown and second in a row, beating 15-year-old Carlene Leyden from Houston 6-4, 6-3.
Gravina pocketed $2,500 for his victory while McNicol took home $1,500.
McNicol also teamed up with Alexa Zayac to win the women's doubles final yesterday with a 6-2, 7-6 (5) victory over Anita Paskvalin and Kate McKenzie. On Saturday, McNicol and Sean LaCap won the mixed doubles title with a 6-2, 7-6 victory over Zayac and Patrick Millican. It marks the second year in a row that the University of Central Florida junior has won all three Manitoba Open titles.
LaCap also won the men's doubles crown as he and Doug DeVriendt beat Baranowski and Geoff Kirbyson 6-4, 6-1. It is LaCap's third consecutive men's doubles title, each year with a different partner.
Seeded second despite being the defending champion, Gravina took control of the men's singles final in the first set. Baranowski battled back in the second set before winning the tie-breaker.
"The tie-breaker's a heartbreaker," said Gravina, who was at match point once in the second set. "Sometimes one point makes all the difference because it can change the momentum of the match. You just try to battle through it."
But in the end, Gravina's overpowering serve and light touch along the lines was too much for Baranowski, ranked 18th in Canada -- three places higher than Gravina.
"I couldn't keep up in the first (set) but I slowly got back into it in the second one," said the 30-year-old Baranowski, the tournament's top seed. "In the third, he just kept hitting close to the line. It's tough to beat him."
Next up for Gravina is the $50,000 Men's Challenger event next weekend in Granby, Que.
"Going into it, I've played three weeks (in a row) and I made the finals in Calgary at the Alberta Open and the week after I won (the Rosedale Open in) Toronto and now this one," said Gravina, who also won the Circuit Canada Saskatoon Open in April. "I'm feeling pretty good and my chances are pretty good."
GOLDEN OLDIES: In a tradition that began last year to help celebrate the Manitoba Open's 100th anniversary, tournament organizers brought one of their former champions back to present the trophy to the men's open singles champion. Don Leydon, the 1951 men's singles champion, did the honours this year.