A great article about Patty
LOS ANGELES, Nov 5 (Reuters) -- Of the 16 players earning tickets to this week's WTA Championships, none is happier to be at the $3 million year-end extravaganza than Patty Schnyder.
Not even an impending first-round clash on Wednesday with world No. 2 and defending champion Venus Williams could wipe the smile from the face of Schnyder, who has been revelling in her return to the elite after being the victim of one of the most bizarre sagas to hit women's tennis.
"I'm so excited," said the 23-year-old Swiss player. "There are times when you are disappointed with yourself and your game, you ask yourself questions and you don't really know the answers.
"I had some really, really tough times I lived through, but I'm loving life as a tennis player again and loving competing and practicing."
The winner of five titles in 1998 and a finalist at the Grand Slam Cup, Schnyder had rocketed to No. 8 in the world rankings.
But shortly after her breakthrough season, the then 20-year-old began to fall under the spell of 42-year-old German guru and faith healer Dr. Rainer Harnecker.
With no formal diploma as a doctor or background in tennis, "the mysterious doctor" -- as Harnecker became known in the Swiss media -- took control of Schnyder's career and became her boyfriend and coach.
Under Harnecker's controversial training regime, Schnyder was allowed only five hours of sleep a night, could drink only orange juice before 2 p.m. and eat only fruits and vegetables, according to media reports.
With the new season underway, Schnyder's behavior grew increasingly erratic as she left home and cut all contact with family and friends, dumped her old boyfriend and fired two coaches, including long-time trainer Eric Van Harpen, who had guided her into the top 10.
Following a quarterfinal loss to Anna Kournikova at Amelia Island, Schnyder and Harnecker dropped out of sight, her disappearance cloaked in intrigue and prompting concern from those on and off the court.
By the time friends, family and the police finally intervened and their five-month relationship ended, Schnyder's career and confidence were in tatters.
Deserted by sponsors and fans, her ranking and play having deteriorated, a sheepish Schnyder began the task of rebuilding her game and restoring her once wholesome image.
But in the warmth of the California sunshine, those dark days were well behind the Swiss player, who looked optimistically toward the future and her ultimate goal of winning a Grand Slam.
Long regarded as one of the tour's most complete players, Schnyder began to show regular glimpses of her top-10 form this season, culminating two weeks ago with a victory over Lindsay Davenport in the final of the $1 million SwissCom Challenge.
"The week I had in Zurich was unbelievable," said Schnyder. "I had a great year, even if I hadn't made it here, I beat a lot of top-10 players.
"I started the year ranked 40-something and now I'm back in the top 20.
"It's really hard to get back in the top 20, and that has been my goal for the last few years.
"My life and my game is all together. You cannot be really successful if you have too many problems around you and I don't have any and I'm really happy."
She fight hard last night, and she should take positive from it, especially when her last few meeting was lopsided, and she fight this time despite so down, well done, all the best in 2003, I hope you can crack top 10 again