JADE Culph has outlasted Mark Shanahan in a marathon final at the Albury Easter tournament.
It was a straight sets scoreline of 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 but the two sets took more than two hours and the first four games almost half an hour.
Shanahan failed to convert any of his 11 break points but continued to rally late in the contest to save five match points.
Culph, now head coach at the Yarrawonga Lawn Tennis Club, and Shanahan have played in the final for the past three years with Culph taking a 2-1 head-to-head advantage.
“I had to play my best tennis out there today,” he said.
“Last year I let the final be played on Mark’s terms and we traded shots from the baseline but I decided I was going to come to the net and if he blasted it past me then he would win.
“I wanted to keep the points short but after the first four games, including the very first game which I think went to eight deuces, it was never going to be that easy.
“In the end it was last man standing and I held on.”
Shanahan, who has deferred another year as coach of Matt Ebden on the ATP world tour to get married, rued the missed opportunities.
“I really wanted to win this tournament in its 100th year, I’d worked on getting fitter with this as a focus,” he said.
“But Culphy just played the smarter tennis.”
Culph, 32, has now won the title three times, once as an 18-year-old and then again two years ago against Shanahan.
“The crowd know what to expect when we play each other — it is always going to go for a long time,” he said.
“We both had chances to break early but we were able to hold our serve at key moments.
“Even in the tie-break I led 6-3 but Mark came up with some great clutch serves.
“I hit a good serve down the tee and he got a racquet on it but it just went wide — it really was a game of inches.
“It’s just great that two local boys could play off in the final with the tournament celebrating 100 years.”