GERMAN UNSEATS SCHULTZ
The Times Union
Monday, August 31, 1992
Moments after the final forehand smacked wide into the doubles lane, bouncing into the arms of a ballgirl, Barbara Rittner edged toward the Stadium Court bleachers.
Soon as the chair umpire barked game, set and match, the German went searching for the arms of her coach, Jan Kurz, who Sunday sat strategically between a mass of neon orange hats and Ray Bans worn by some midcourt OTB Open fans.
Before she could be presented the women's championship trophy, which looks remarkably like a giant goldfish bowl, Rittner mugged Kurz with a hug, an embrace that thanked him for a year of tennis development; a year during which she went from being a nameless first-round opponent to out-thwacking opponents who turn up regularly in the Top 20.
Fourth-seeded Brenda Schultz's final unforced error had supplied the means for third-seeded Barbara Rittner's first major tour championship, and the student would first celebrate with her teacher. "I just said, 'Thank you,' " Rittner said of her conversation with Kurz after beating OTB's defending champion Schultz, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.
"It's just a really good feeling," Rittner said. "I played one final last year in St. Petersburg (Russia), but I lost it 6-4 in the third (to Larisa Savchenko). Then you're in the final again, and you really want to win it.
"Then it's a very close match and suddenly it's all over and you've won it ... I'm just really happy," said Rittner, who held her trophy aloft after the presentation and saluted to the four corners of the stadium as if she had done this several times before.
This was the peak of her remarkable last year and a half. Since January of '91, Rittner, 19, has gone from being the 110th-ranked women's player in the world to 27th, where she stood as of Friday.
Along the way she has beaten a batch of Top 50 players, and some in the Top 20, including Leila Meskhi and Julie Halard. She even went three rounds in the U.S. Open.
"I knew from the beginning I could beat everyone here in the tournament and I just tried to go for it," said Rittner, who lost just one set the entire five rounds. "I took every match, match after match. Today I played very good tennis, and I won because I was a little bit better than her today."
Suddenly, Rittner feels she is playing her best tennis ever, a groove that could make her a dangerous opponent for one of the reigning queens of the court at next week's U.S. Open. For starters, she'll play unheralded Czech Andrea Strnadova in the first round.
"For sure it gives me a lot of confidence. If you win a tournament you played in to prepare for the U.S. Open, then it's always a good feeling," Rittner said. "You go on the court more confident than some other players because you know you are in good shape and have just won a tournament by beating a lot of good players."
Schultz, another woman who has enjoyed a meteoric rise the past year - landing at 32nd heading into this tourney - was beaten by a combination of her own loss of poise and Rittner's cool, steady play.
Schultz's renowned serve, the fastest on the women's tour, left the Dutchwoman early in the match and never returned.
"There's no way I can lose my serve that much," said Schultz, who was broken twice in the match. "I wasn't serving the same. My toss wasn't good. My toss has a lot to do with my serve. I guess I wasn't tossing the ball right.
"She returned very well right from the beginning. She was right on my feet. So from the beginning she had a very good feeling on my serve."
And while Schultz's serve was failing, so was her play at the net, particularly on drop shots in the first set, which missed lines most of the time. Overall, Schultz committed 24 unforced errors in the first set.
"It's weird, just so weird. I don't know what to do sometimes when I'm on the court," said Schultz, who had played nearly flawlessly here before Sunday. "It's like, 'What should I do? Should I come in, which is my strongest game? Or should I stay back?' I should have stayed back more today."
Schultz's loss of composure was something for which Rittner waited. She had played and beaten Schultz once before, but had seen her play many times.
"I know Brenda: she can play very, very good points and then, like that game for two-love in the second set, she served two double faults. That's the way she loses these close matches," said Rittner, adding that the possibility Schultz might lose her poise was also planted by the man she thanked first when it was over.
"He always remembers and mentions those things to me, for sure," Rittner said.