BROOMFIELD — When you reach 35 years-old in just about any sporting endeavor — including tennis — you automatically are deemed “crafty.”
But Jevgenij Cariov has done his best to keep up with the younger generation in a sport that isn’t always that forgiving — including after taking seven years away from the sport that brought him to the United States from his native Lithuania in the late 1990s.
On Friday evening at the Broomfield Swim and Tennis Club, Boulder’s Cariov played a brilliant strategical match against former Niwot High School and current Creighton University player Harrison Lang, besting him 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) in the Men’s Open final.
“You do have to play a mental game (against a younger opponent), but on the other hand I feel like I’m in better shape than I have ever been,” said Cariov, whose children started playing the game last year and convinced dad to get back into competitive tennis. “And that also gives me mental strength.”
A two-time IronMan competitor and owner of his own kettlebell studio, Cariov looked good in the first set and closed it out in style with one of the better points of the match.
Lang didn’t just roll over in the second set and even when he fell behind 4-2 and was facing triple-break point, the two-time state champion upped up the intensity.
“At that point it gave me big hopes and luckily it stuck in my head,” said Cariov, who watched his opponent rally to take 5-4 lead. “But I found my old tennis and I remembered how to play.”
Cariov fought off a set point in the 10th game and eventually battled back to force a tiebreaker.
With his off-the-court preparation, Cariov has trained his body to last on the court during matches that can take a lot out of the body.
“But then again, I haven’t played competitively in seven years and this is all new to me again, even though I tend to dwell on old memories,” said Cariov, who teaches a little bit at the Rocky Mountain Tennis Center.
In the tiebreak, Cariov, who played college tennis at both Texas Tech and later at DePaul, jumped out to a 4-0 lead on Lang and put his stamp on the match with a great half-volley that brought a huge ovation from the crowd.
On the women’s side, Jacqueline Turner, who was in the second trimester of her pregnancy when she came to Broomfield last season, beat Mountain Range High School senior Kristen Kirby 6-1, 6-3.
Turner, 27, went right to work exposing Kirby’s weaknesses and using the high-schooler’s uncontrolled power against her.
“Her game is much riskier than mine, so she needs to go for shots and come in and make her volleys,” said Turner, whose daughter Elizabeth was born in December and was in attendance. “I tried to always keep her on the move and keep her from setting up and hitting the big shot.
“Then of course if she makes a mistake, I wanted to hit a shot that was going to hurt her too.”
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