CONFIDENT SCHULTZ BOOMS INTO SEMIS
The Times Union
Saturday, August 29, 1992
This is definitely not the way Brenda Schultz would describe herself.
If you want to talk about confidence, about being self-assured, well, that's OK. That's a reality for Schultz, the 21-year-old towering Dutchwoman with the booming serve.
One full year after Schultz won her first major tournament on the city tennis courts in Central Park, she appears poised to ace her way to a repeat performance.
Schultz, showing her confidence, blasted her way to victory Friday, defeating Canadian Helen Kelesi 6- 2, 6-3 in a quarterfinal of the OTB Open Tennis Tournament.
Schultz's decisive win moved her into today's semifinals against Argentinian Florencia Labat, who also won her quarterfinal match Friday. Labat knocked off the tournament's highest remaining seed, (No. 2) Radka Zubrakova, in a three-set baseline battle.
Today's other women's singles semifinal will pit Barbara Rittner (No.3) against OTB Open success story Marianne Werdel. Rittner, from Germany, defeated Alexis Dechaume in their quarterfinal match. Werdel, who is unseeded, dispatched 18-year-old qualifier Stephane Rottier, 6-4, 6-4.
Schultz, who had never won a major tournament before her victory in last year's OTB Open, has returned to Schenectady with even more firepower, the kind it will take to produce the first repeat champion in the 11-year history of the event.
Schultz's serve - which has been clocked at 120 mph - remains the fastest on the women's tour.
Kelesi, ranked as high as No. 13 back in 1990, did a good job blocking back many of Schultz's blistering first serves. But after a match in which Schultz produced some very timely aces, Kelesi was the first to admit that Schultz's thunder was too hard to steal against.
"I think she just played really well," Kelesi said. "She gave me no chance to get into rhythm, and her serving so well put so much pressure on my serve."
Since last year, Schultz has shed a few pounds, making it easier to move her 6-foot-2 frame around the court. More important, she has tuned up her play at the net. The improvement was quite evident Friday, when a crushing serve-and-volley game was on display.
"Now, even if I miss my first serve, I'm able to get some good volleys," said Schultz, who said the improvement was a result of playing doubles and her coach Juan Nunez's instruction.
"Before when I would win, I would tell myself it was because 'Yeah, she was playing badly,' " Schultz admitted. "It's just part of your character, I guess. But I would always be on the negative side."
Now, Schultz said, with her game reinforced by hard work, she`s beginning to believe it when her coach says she played well, that she was the better player.
"It took awhile for it to sink in," Schultz said. "But when you win points, you're more confident. I'm starting to believe in it more. Tennis has a lot to do with confidence."
The change of attitude has not gone unnoticed.
"I've had people tell me I'm being cocky," said an amused Schultz. "This is not me, though. I would never tell anybody I`m going to win a tournament. That would be too much pressure to do that. I'd rather see it round for round."
In the next round, Schultz plays Labat, a baseliner who showed patience in her 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Zubrakova. Labat lost a three-set tiebreaker to Schultz on clay at Amelia Island. That experience has bolstered Labat's confidence, too.
"If I can return her serve, I have a chance to win," Labat said.