Veteran finishing career on 'my terms'
Schultz-McCarthy, 37, qualifies for CSC draw
By Phil Stukenborg (Contact)
Monday, February 25, 2008
In a week of Memphis men's and women's professional tennis at The Racquet Club where three-time Grand Slam singles champion Lindsay Davenport's recent return to competition -- and first tournament on U.S. soil -- will be among the top storylines, there'll be a subplot.
It's another comeback story, one overshadowed by the strength of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and Cellular South Cup fields, bolstered by Davenport and Venus Williams highlight the women's side, top seed Andy Roddick, James Blake, Tommy Haas and Marat Safin the men's side.
At age 37, Brenda Schultz-McCarthy, a former top world top 10, is in the main draw of a WTA Tour event for the first time since July and only the seventh time since returning to the sport in 2006. She earned one of 32 spots Sunday by winning her third qualifying match in as many days.
The hard-serving Schultz-McCarthy defeated German Tanja Ostertag, 6-2, 6-2, Sunday. She'll play Russian Alla Kudryavtseva in an opening-round match today.
On the men's side, two-time defending champ Haas plays his opening-round match in the RMKC tonight against Diego Hartfield at approximately 6:30 and Davenport follows with her first-round match against qualifier Sabine Lisicki.
In one of two main draw women's matches played Sunday, No. 7 seed Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden, the 2006 CSC champion, advanced with a three-set victory over Severine Bremond.
Schultz-McCarthy's desire to play in the main draw at Wimbledon -- where she reached the quarterfinals in 1995 -- has served as motivation in her comeback, allowing her to battle through back and shoulder ailments.
She certainly hasn't been motivated by money.
Since resuming her career in 2006 after a six-year layoff -- a retirement brought upon by a herniated disc in her back -- Schultz-McCarthy is playing for the love of the sport. The 6-2 Dutchwoman isn't allowed to accept prize money, a condition of a Lloyd's of London disability insurance policy paying her an undisclosed amount after serious back problems forced her to retire in 1999. Any prize money goes to Lloyd's of London.
Schultz-McCarthy can live, and play, with the decision.
''It's not about the money,'' she said. ''It's about finishing (my career) on my terms. You can't do this forever.''
Schultz-McCarthy turned pro in 1986, one year before her opponent Sunday was born. Her victory over Ostertag earned her a spot in a main draw after she'd failed to qualify during four previous attempts from August to November last year. She's in the main draw at Memphis for the first time.
''My shoulder is finally feeling good,'' said Schultz-McCarthy, who had an ice bag strapped to her right shoulder after Sunday's match. ''My husband says every quarterback, every pitcher, ices their arm after they play, whether it's hurt or not. If I can use my serve, I can put pressure (on an opponent) and I can break them because they feel the pressure.''
En route to reaching the main draw, Schultz-McCarthy defeated Sandra Kloesel, the qualifying tournament's top seed, in the first round.
''These matches have been great,'' Schultz-McCarthy said. ''A couple of weeks ago I had thought about quitting again because of my shoulder. This is nice again.''
Schultz-McCarthy hit a serve recorded at 130 mph in a qualifying round at the WTA Tour event in Cincinnati two years ago, or three miles per hour faster than one struck by Williams in 1998.
She said she considered a comeback in 2005 after she was asked to coach her country's Federation Cup team. Schultz-McCarthy had been running a tennis camp on her 360-acre property in Roanoke, Va., but agreed to take time to serve as Fed Cup coach.
''I went over (to Holland) to practice with the girls and it was like an indoor court like (The Racquet Club),'' she said. ''They saw me hit and they said 'Brenda, have you been hitting?' I told them I had been hitting with some (juniors), some 16- and 17-year-olds getting ready for college.
''I'd stayed fit because I like to stay fit. I'd done some boogie-boarding and roller-blading and I'd played some charity exhibition events with Andy Roddick. But the girls said. 'You're playing, we need you in doubles, we don't have doubles players.''
Schultz-McCarthy also played some practice singles matches with the Fed Cup team and beat them. Before long, she relinquished her coaching job to play singles and doubles for her country.
She didn't know if her back would be up to the rigors again, so she played some Team Tennis in Holland.
''I had to play 14 matches, in singles and doubles, in three weeks time,'' she said. ''I said if I can do that, and it's against good players, then I'll see about a comeback.''
In her first event in her comeback in her home country, she reached the quarterfinals. And while she's had minimal success since, playing her way into a main draw as she did Sunday is inspiring.
''My husband just wants me to finish it up on my terms,'' she said. ''He knows he'll have a nicer wife to deal with if he does.''