CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- James Kent finished the men's open singles finals at the Charleston Public Courts tennis tournament the same way he started it, by doing maybe the toughest thing there is to do at the event - breaking Patrick Walker's serve.
Squeezed between was a three-plus-hour, back-and-forth, grinding match that kept a healthy crowd glued to its seats in the late July heat Saturday at Schoenbaum Courts in Kanawha City.
In the end, the tournament crowned a new all-time leader in men's open singles titles as Kent survived the six-time champion Walker 7-5 (7-6), 4-6, 7-5 to pick up his eighth championship and first since 2005, when he tied Kevin Ball's record of seven titles.
Kent's win also denied Walker the accomplishment of tying them both at seven crowns.
"It really hasn't sunk in yet," an exhausted Kent said of his eighth title. "I was just focusing on playing every match this tournament at a high level, and for the most part I think I did."
He displayed that high level several times when he needed to on Saturday.
With the score tied 5-5 in the deciding third set, Walker had two chances at breaking Kent and taking control of the match.
Instead, the 34-year-old fought off the younger Walker, rallied to claim the sixth point and then shut down Walker's serve to polish off the win.
"It was a very physical match. Pat served extremely well the whole match," Kent said. "The only good look I had on a serve was that last game. He wasn't going for the angles and I put some returns in play. It was very hard. He hits such a heavy ball - he pushed me to the limit but I played well, focused, and luckily I came through."
Walker had won four titles in a row and six of the last seven but fell just short on Saturday, marking the first time he's come up short when entering the Public Courts men's open.