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DailyTidings.com
  • TENNIS

    Dix rolls to Big Al's singles title

    Beats Neuman in straight sets to secure first men's open singles title
  • Two years after letting a one-set lead, and the men's open singles championship, slip through his fingers, John Dix avoided a similar letdown with a resounding straight-set win at the Big Al's Tennis Tournament.
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  • Two years after letting a one-set lead, and the men's open singles championship, slip through his fingers, John Dix avoided a similar letdown with a resounding straight-set win at the Big Al's Tennis Tournament.
    Dix dominated the opening set then held off Douglass Neuman's late surge to avoid a repeat collapse Sunday, rolling to a 6-0, 6-2 victory on another blistering day at Hunter Park.
    Playing his second match of the day after a semifinal victory over Adam Stamper that began at 8 a.m., Dix, 36, showed no signs of fatigue as he breezed through the opening set in about 30 minutes.
    The local property management specialist then used two quick breaks to race out to a 4-0 lead in the second set.
    Neuman, 60, held serve twice in a row to build a little momentum, but Dix didn't let this year's championship pottery slip away, clinching the final game on a Neuman forehand that caught nothing but net.
    "Very happy," Dix said. "I was nervous going into it. I was almost more nervous knowing the guys that I'm playing because if I lose to these guys I have to see them all the time and they're going to hold it over me. So I really wanted to win this one."
    "(Dix) just played great," Neuman said. "I finally had a run at the end but it was too little, too late."
    Both members of the Ashland Tennis and Fitness Club, Dix and Neuman play regularly and are privy to each other's strengths and weaknesses. That was clear right from the get-go, as Dix made a concerted effort to attack Neuman's backhand. The strategy worked to perfection, pushing the local hotelier into awkward positions and setting up a series of easy putaways.
    "I knew what kind of strategy I needed to execute to win today, and that was not making mistakes, keeping it to his backhand," Dix said. "He got hot at the end with some big forehand winners. If I didn't keep it away from there, he's dangerous. That was the key."
    Only one game in the opening set saw Neuman get to 30-all, and that was the last one, in which Dix double faulted at 40-30 to create the match's first of three deuces. Like the other two, Dix prevailed two points later, clinching the set with a backhand passing shot that viciously crossed up the hard-charging Neuman.
    The second set was more of the same — at least at first.
    Neuman took a 40-30 lead on his opening serve but Dix rallied back for the break after back-to-back unforced errors by Neuman. Dix then held easily, grazing the "T" for his first ace of the day at 30-love, before registering another service break to begin to pull away.
    When Dix held serve again, thanks to a laser forehand down the line, it was starting to look like a rare double-bagel championship score was inevitable. But Neuman wouldn't have it. He held at love in his most impressive game of the match, belting a forehand cross-court winner on the run to make it 40-love then throwing a fist-pump after Dix's service return caught the net moments later.
    "(Dix) gets so many balls back," said Neuman, who won a hard-fought semifinal match, 7-6, 7-6, over Mischa Kirby on Saturday. "I was just trying different things to see what would work. (Dix's) a great player and he played great today. On big points he came through, his serve was tough. He just made it tough on me."
    Dix answered with his best shot of the match, a reaching, falling-away backhand pass down the line on a full sprint that froze Neuman, who could only give a polite racket clap and accept the 5-1 hole.
    Newman showed some flash of his own in the next game, ripping back-to-back winners en route to his second game victory.
    But Dix left no doubt in serving out the match.
    "I said, 'I could win this' as soon as I saw that bracket," Dix said. "But that puts extra pressure on you, too."
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