Age catches Casey out


The reaction of the winner, Scott Barron, and the defeated Owen Casey poignantly echoed much of what had happened during their battle for the men's singles title in the National Indoor Open tennis championships, sponsored by Pamela Scott, at Riverview yesterday.

Casey (30), who coaches for a living, looked short of match fitness, and said this was his last bid for the title. "I should be watching the kids I coach in the junior events here and not playing," he said.

Barron (25) looked ahead and said he hoped to make the world's top 100 before he retired. "It's great to be Irish champion and all that but the main reason I am in tennis is to make it on the ATP circuits."

He admitted that the victory was among the easiest he has had against Casey. "I sensed it was not going to be as difficult as before." But there were many moments in both sets that produced stunning and hard-fought points reminiscent of previous meetings between the two.

Casey's first serve let him down, and this was a major factor in Barron's 7-6 6-2 win. "He was stingy today," said Casey, "he usually gives you more."

However, Barron almost threw away the first set because of a lack of conviction on his second serves. He could have afforded to be more positive at 6-1 in the tiebreak. Instead, his tentative powder-puff second serves allowed Casey to get back into it. Barron lost a remarkable 10 set points (five in the tie-break) before finally closing the door 7-5.

Casey became unusually benevolent in the second set, giving belated Christmas gifts at every turn. He was broken in the third and seventh games to drop into a 5-2 deficit. In previous years he might have dug himself out of such a hole but not at this stage of his career.

His poor returns also set Barron up with a double match point at the finish: he took his chance first pop.

Elsa O'Riain, a 17-year-old from Cork, won her first national senior title by beating another teenager, Anne Marie Hogan, 7-6 6-1. Earlier in the day O'Riain had lifted the under-18 title at the expense of another Cork girl, Emma Murphy, and she may be on the brink of a fine career.

In the senior final, O'Riain pulled herself up by the boot straps after a shaky start which landed her in real trouble. She saved three set points in the 10th game after breaking back from 35 and then got on top in the tiebreak to win it 7-2.

Her superior serve and ability on returns earned her victory earlier than expected. She dropped only a mere four points on her second-set service games and broke Hogan three times.