WERDEL TURNS UP THE HEAT
The Times Union
Friday, August 28, 1992
Talk about the dog days of summer!
Thursday was just about the doggiest. Heat. Heat. Humidity and more heat. Hot enough to turn the Central Park tennis courts into a place where only the Keebler elves could thrive.
And Marianne Werdel, a Californian who admits her best tennis is played on dog day afternoons.
It was under these prime conditions that the unseeded Werdel picked off the No. 1 seed, Helena Sukova, 7-5, 7-6 (3) in the second round of the OTB Open Tennis Tournament.
Not even a yapping and whining German shepherd puppy that someone had leashed to a shady elm proved too distracting to Werdel in her straight set dismissal of Sukova, the world's 15th-ranked player.
The canine commenced crying during warmups, but it wasn't until Werdel took a 2-1 lead in the first set that she decided to take action. The 24-year-old baseliner strolled up to the umpire's chair.
"Can you send someone to shut that dog up?" Werdel inquired.
A ball boy was sent on the silencing mission, which must have proved difficult, since the dog continued to howl as the women played to 4-all.
However, by the time it was 5-all, all was quiet in the sweltering city park. Werdel held serve to go ahead 6-5, then broke Sukova to win the first set.
Werdel, a hard-hitting baseliner, used her penchant for passing shots to keep the towering Sukova from getting to the net. It's there that the 6-foot-2 Czech is capable of doing damage to opponents. On Thursday, Sukova was robbed of her serve-and-volley tactics.
"My shots were off," Sukova said. "I wasn't putting any pressure on her and I needed to get to the net more."
In the second set, Sukova got the first break to go up 3-1. However, she found no other opportunities to pull away from Werdel, who got back to two breaks to make it 6-all.
In the tie-breaker, the women were tied at 3-all when Werdel turned the tables on Sukova and ventured to the net, where she angled a volley winner to take a 4-3 lead.
Deflated, Sukova then committed two unforced errors off her forehand and ended the match on a double fault.
"Half of myself was there and half was not," Sukova said.
The win moved Werdel into today's quarterfinals against 18-year-old Stepahanie Rottier. It also helped continue her pleasant, successful string at the OTB Open. Werdel was a semifinalist last year and a finalist in 1990 and '89.
"I love it here," Werdel said. "I grew up in hot weather and if I look back at the tournaments where I've done well, they're always the hottest places."
This was Werdel's first win over Sukova in three chances.
"If there's a place to play (Sukova), it's here," Werdel said. "These are my favorite conditions - the weather, the court, which is a little slow." Everything went her way, Werdel said, except for that barking dog.
"I thought it was funny because when I practice with my coach on his private court, there's a dog next door that's always barking," Werdel said. "You can block it out when you're playing but between points, it's definitely annoying."
Werdel could be in for a little more annoyance today when she faces Rottier, an 18-year-old Dutchwoman who also sent a top seed packing Thursday.
Rottier, a qualifier in this $255,000 tournament, defeated No. 5 seed Laura Gildemeister (6-4, 6-4) on the grandstand court. It was a well-matched baseline slugfest that turned Rottier's way on the failure of Gildemeister's serve.
At 4-all in the first set, Rottier broke Gildemeister to take a 5-4 lead and served for the set.
In the second set, Gildemeister doubled-faulted on game point to give Rottier a 2-1 lead. The 26-year-old Peruvian broke right back, but again could not hold serve -- double-faulting for a second time to lose her serve.
The trouble continued at 4-all, when Gildemeister double-faulted again to lose the game, allowing Rottier to serve for the match.
"My serve was very bad," Gildemeister said. "It made my very tentative. It seemed like everytime I had a chance, I would double fault."
In the other women's singles match of the day, hard-serving Brenda Schultz was an easy winner. The No. 4 seed plays Helen Kelesi in the first stadium match of the day.
The other two women's quarterfinals pit No. 3 Barbara Rittner against. Alexia Dechaume in a grandstand match, while No. 2 Radka Zrubakova plays Florencia Labat on Court 6.