For Schultz-McCarthy, score is love-hate
On comeback trail, Dutch player falls at Mecco Cup.
By Adi Joseph | Of The Morning Call July 12, 2008 With her quarterfinal match at the Mecco Cup slipping away Friday, Brenda Schultz-McCarthy screamed in frustration.
''It's so tiring, this sport!'' she screamed to the crowd at Westend Racquet Club in South Whitehall Township.
She would know.
Schultz-McCarthy began her professional career before her opponent, Amanda Fink, had even been born. At age 37, the Dutch woman is the oldest active player on the WTA Tour. After taking years off recovering from a herniated disk -- one so severe doctors told her she would never play again -- the former top-10 player is back on tour with hopes of playing in one last major.
She's had to work her way through the rankings again, from the bottom up. Now in the third year of her comeback, the gangly, 6-2 blonde with hair flapping out of her visor and the world's fastest serve is ranked No. 284 in the world.
And she's turning some heads while she does it.
''It's awesome,'' Mecco Cup semifinalist Milagros Sequera said. ''I really admire that. I wish that, if I'm 37, I could come back and play at the top of women's tennis.''
Schultz-McCarthy lost to Fink 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, but she won over the crowd with her charisma, her Dutch-laden screams and her classic serve-and-volley game set off by a powerful serve.
It's been 14 years since she was a top-10 player. In that time, she's had back surgery and a six-year retirement. Then she launched her improbable comeback amidst doubters.
''Obviously, my husband was saying and my dad was saying, 'Brenda, they hit so hard these days, you don't have a shot!''' she recalled with a grin.
Turns out, she's hitting harder than anyone.
Schultz-McCarthy saw her WTA Tour fastest-serve record fall in 1998, just a year before she retired the first time. But in 2006, she reclaimed her title from Venus Williams
in a Cincinnati tournament with a 130-mph blast.
Fink, who opened the match by dropping the first five games before regaining composure, admitted the difficultly in facing a player such as Schultz-McCarthy.
''It definitely takes a couple games to get used to,'' the USC senior said. ''You don't see a serve like hers everyday.''
The next stop for Schultz-McCarthy is in Mexico City. But retirement is looming. McCarthy, who cannot accept prize money at tournaments after filing for disability years ago, said this will probably be her final year on tour even though her bid at receiving a wild card for Wimbledon last month was rejected.
She and her husband of 14 years, Sean McCarthy, are thinking about settling down and having a child.
On Friday, with her frustration boiling over, she gave some advice to a group of teenage girls in the crowd:
''Don't start this sport -- go swimming or something. That's much better.''
But Schultz-McCarthy sure isn't putting her own racket down quietly.
Today's action features the doubles championship between Carly Gullickson-Nicole Kriz and Chin-Wei Chan-Natalie Grandin at 1 p.m. In the singles semifinals, which begin at 10 a.m., Fink will take on American Lauren Albanese, and Sequera faces Regina Kulikova.