QUINCY -- The lead seemed almost insurmountable, especially against an opponent with a heavily taped and braced ankle.
But Ethan Arns wasn't conceding anything. That forced Ryan Schnack to become as bulldogged as ever.
Trailing 5-2 in Sunday's first set of the men's open division championship in the Quincy Tennis Association's city singles tournament, Arns methodically and aggressively fought his was back into the match. He won five straight games to win the first set 7-5 and put the two-time defending champion on his heels.
"He didn't let up at any point," Schnack said.
So he knew he couldn't either. Schnack won the first game of the second set on serve, broke Arns in the second set and used the momentum to outlast his counterpart, winning a third-set tiebreaker for a 5-7, 6-1, 10-8 victory at the Quincy Racquet Club and his third straight championship.
"This one was a heck of a lot harder," Schnack said. "This is one I had to earn each and every point."
It started with rebounding from the first-set meltdown.
"The first game of the second set was extremely hard because I was still down after blowing the set point I had," Schnack said. "I missed a volley in the net relatively easy, which led to him coming back and winning. I just tried to stay calm."
That was not an easy thing to do with Arns brimming with confidence.
A sprained right ankle suffered in Saturday's semifinal victory made Arns' status questionable overnight. By late Sunday morning, the swelling had dissipated and Arns tucked his foot and ankle into a heavy brace.
Schnack figured it might limit Arns' mobility. It clearly didn't.
"He must have taken 10 ibuprofen because it sure didn't show," Schnack said. "I'd hit some drop shots and he'd sprint up and get them. I'm sitting there and my mouth was to the floor. It was unbelievable."
Such plays, along with being aggressive on his serve, fueled Arns' comeback.
"You just have to forget about the score, think it's 0-0 and take it one point at a time," Arns said. "Play harder and make him hit a few more balls. It happened to work in my favor."
It made Schnack briefly waver.
"I try to keep myself calm," Schnack said. "I've been in that position before where you blow a lead and you can get down on yourself really easy. I tried not to do that."
Breaking Arns' serve early in the second set changed things.
"It gave me more energy." Schnack said.
He systematically won game after game from there in the hot, humid conditions that wore both players down..
"Not only after a long weekend, but after playing Ryan in a single match, it's just tiring," Arns said. "He always wears you out. Hopefully, I did the same thing to him."
Both were welcoming some rest after such an even battle.
"Anytime I play the sport, as long as I play well and I compete, I'm happy," Arns said. "It's the times I don't play well when I'm not happy. At least I played well, the match was close and it was fun competing."