It’s become a yearly ritual.
Every summer, Huntington native Patrick Walker wins the Charleston Public Courts tournament and then does the same at the Michelob Light Ashland City Championships.
On Sunday, Walker followed up his sixth Public Courts men’s open title with No. 7 in a row at the Ashland Tennis Center.
Former Wheelersburg High and Lipscomb University player Chad Pierron tried to throw a wrench into the annual cycle, but the 26-year-old Walker would have none of that.
Pierron played a terrific first set, only to see Walker quickly take over the match and roll to a 4-6, 6-0, 6-0 victory.
“It was good,” Walker said of the afternoon battle between friends on Court 1. “I had to bring my ‘A’ game.”
Overall, the 26th annual City Championships had 132 entries including eight in men’s open singles.
Pierron, a 6-2, 6-4 loser to Walker in last year’s final, came out firing early with a strong serve that kept Walker off balance. After trailing 1-0, Pierron reeled off five of the next six games.
“Chad was killing me on his serve,” Walker said. “It was hard to get a rhythm.”
Pierron’s philosophy was simple.
“I had to hit the ball hard just to hang in with him,” Pierron said. “That was like everything I had.”
Pierron wasn’t exactly fresh for the challenge. He took the court only minutes after losing a back-and-forth men’s open doubles final.
Walker made Pierron expend plenty of energy to close out the first set. Down 5-2, Walker saved two set points, went on to win the game and then held his own serve to pull within 5-4.
Unfazed, Pierron moved out to a 40-0 lead thanks to two big serves. The second one whistled past Walker, prompting Pierron to ask him, “Was that in?”
Walker smiled and nodded. He dug in, saving three consecutive set points, and then another, before Pierron hit a sharp-angle forehand for a winner to end the set.
“He’s a tough player,” Walker said. “Kudos to Chad. He took a set, and he earned it.”
For Pierron, it represented something of a milestone.
“We’ve played plenty of times,” Pierron said. “I think this is the first time I’ve taken a set from him.”
It was all Walker from there, however. He cranked up both his serve and hammer-like forehand to rack up 45 of the next 58 points in an 11-game blitz.
“There wasn’t a whole lot I could do,” Pierron said. “Patrick got in a groove starting the second set and kept it up in the third. If you leave anything short, he pounces and usually hits a winner. You have to play lights out to beat him.”
Pierron tried to salvage a game at the end. It went to deuce four times before Walker closed out the match.
“I figured it out a little bit after the first set,” Walker said. “I think doubles took a little bit out of him.”
The veteran doubles team of Chad Dyer and Jeff Hechemy repeated as men’s open champs for the third consecutive year. The No. 1 seeds beat Pierron and Lovell Medcalf 6-4, 6-2.
Pierron and Medcalf — the doubles winners in 2008 and ‘09 — defeated second-seeded Walker and Fernando Pavez 7-6, 6-1 in the semifinals on Saturday.
Pierron just wrapped up his collegiate career at Lipscomb in Nashville. He played mostly doubles as a senior and helped the team finish fourth in the Sun Belt Conference.
“We had our best year ever,” Pierron said. “It was fun.”
Pierron earned a degree in biochemistry and plans to go to pharmacy school, but don’t be surprised to see him back at the Ashland City Championships.
“I love the tournament,” he said. “I love Ashland.”
Walker, who beat Evan White and Brian Delcotto on the way to the finals, plans to return next year. He taught tennis lessons at Bellefonte Country Club for three and a half years and has spent the last three and a half years instructing at Charleston Tennis Club.
“I like it here, I hated to leave,” said Walker, who lives in Cross Lanes, W.Va.
Last month, he won the Public Courts for the fourth straight year and sixth overall. It took a monumental effort as Walker outlasted Shepherd University’s Chris Pratt 7-6, 6-7, 6-4 in the finals. Walker needs one more title to match James Kent’s record of seven.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.