COMEBACK TIME: POTTER WANTS RETURN TO TOP 10
Thursday, February 6, 1986
Barbara Potter remembers what it was like to be among the 10 best tennis players in the world.
Now she has dropped six notches. And with the start of the Lipton International Players Championships at Boca West Country Club Monday, she is confident this tournament will be the start of her road back to the top 10.
"I feel I have done some real good things but I haven`t lived up to my potential," Potter said. "I`m looking at this year to build up my game."
And she is aware there are more players on the procircuit who will provide that challenge.
By January 1983 at the age of 21, she had been on the professional tour for three years. In that time she had gone to the semifinals of the U.S. Open in 1981 and won the 1982 Indoor Championships in Philadelphia. She was ranked seventh in the world. At 24, she is ranked 16th.
The more she won, the more interested the rest of the tennis world became. And like a pitcher who gets batters out the first few times before they catch on, other players carefully watched Potter`s style and were able to do the same.
"There were a lot more players who saw me and learned how to play me," Potter said. "I don`t think I worked as hard to get there and not as hard to stay there."
The native of Woodbury, Conn., said she was hurting herself by committing unforced errors, lacking intensity, and thinking too much about tough losses.
Two of them have been to Chris Evert Lloyd. At last year`s Wimbledon, she lost to Evert in the quarterfinals. And at last year`s Lipton championships, she lost to Evert in the quarterfinal round as well.
Potter said that winning the Lipton tournament this year doesn`t seem likely.
"I don`t see it as a reality," Potter said, "I have not played singles in eight or nine weeks."
She has not played any singles matches since December, when she played in the Australian Open and the Pan Pacific tournament in Tokyo. Her most recent tournament victory came last summer at the Virginia Slims Tournament in Monticello, N.Y., when she defeated Helen Kelesi.
She has played doubles with Betsy Nagelsen. The team made it to the finals of the Virginia Slims of FloridaTournament at the Royal Sheraton in Key Biscayne but lost to Kathy Jordan and Elizabeth Smiley.
The intensity is back. Now she is striving for consistency.
"It`s a constantly active process," Potter said about improving her game and her mental approach to the game. "You have to have the proper attitude. It means getting through the tough days by winning when playing badly."
Most of her time has been spent working with coach Dave Robinson of Tennis Management Group in Boca Raton.
"There is so much pressure; who you beat, who you lost to" and the effect such results have on the computer rankings, Robinson said.
Robinson said Potter has had to learn to "take it one day at a time and one match at at a time."
"With her game and style, she can play at least another six years," Robinson said. "She has the reputation as one of the hardest workers on the tour."
"I need to be fresh and eager," Potter said. "I have to be willing to spill blood. You have to be willing to run after the ball until it hurts and want every point until it hurts."
She has worked to improve her baseline game, done some weight training and worked on her mental approach to the game. She plans to sit down with Robinson to plan a strategy for each match: tactical approaches, a review of her opponent`s weaknesses, and the viewing of tapes of other matches in analyzing her mistakes and those of opponents.
But the matches will be fought on the courts, not on television screens or in weight rooms. She will rely on her serve and her play around the net, and her savvy if she wishes to move back into the top 10 of women`s professional tennis.
"I`m a hard hitter," Potter said. "My best play is to get to the net. They will have to get it past me."
Potter wants to win at least one tournament this year. At Lipton, Potter said she wants to play the tough opponents in the early rounds of the tournament to find out quickly whether her new approach to the game will mean success.
"Frankly, it scares me to death," Potter said. "It`s a challenge. I`m putting myself on the line."