Mariaan de Swardt said she never intended to be a pro when she took up the game as a youngster in England . . . "It just came," she said.
What came was power and control. Sunday, she simply overpowered and out-placed unseeded Kristina Brandi of Tampa, Fla., as she has all of her earlier opponents. She served hard, returned hard and hit volleys and overheads even harder. In little more than an hour she won 6-2, 6-2.Through five rounds of the USTA/Bank 1 One Challenger of Salt Lake women's pro tournament, against some of the world's best players, she did not lose a set and only gave up a total of 19 games. The most games she gave up in a set was three.
Brandi summed up the match as she reflected back and said, "She played well and never let me get into my game."
Brandi was unable to break de Swardt in the first set, and gave up two games in the second set before de Swardt had her first bad service game. She rebounded with breaks in the fourth and sixth games to go up 5-1, and was serving for the match.
Once again, de Swardt had a bad service game, and for the second time double faulted on set point to lose her second game.
In the final game, the English player once again proved controlled power wins matches when she took advantages, then came in to volley a cross-court winner for the match.
"I played pretty well. In the second set I struggled with my serves. For the last two to three months now, I've been hitting the ball well. Even with the thin air here, which lets the tennis ball fly, I hit well throughout the tournament. I've been consistent," she said.
"My strategy was to come to the net more, but I was playing so well from the back I didn't come in as much as I would have liked. I usually like to play a more aggressive game."
There were some long rallies scattered throughout the match, but most points came down to a serve and two or three returns - at most.
Brandi, who came into this match with nine consecutive wins after having dispatched of three top seeds, said de Swardt served well, returned deep and hard, and came to the net.
"It's difficult to play someone where they're doing everything well. When I was able to get into position I was able to win points, but she kept me out of position a lot," she said.
"I didn't play badly; she put a lot of pressure on me and she played very well."
Both players will continue to play in tuneup tournaments to get ready for the U.S. Open. De Swardt, ranked 55 in the world and likely to move up into the top 50, will receive an automatic invitation to the main draw. Brandi, ranked around 149 coming into the event, may be forced to play in the qualifying rounds.
In doubles, de Swardt returned with Samantha Smith of Great Britain, who came into this event the No. 2 and was upset by Brandi, to win just as easily as in singles.
The two beat Leizel Horn of South Africa and Karin Kschwendt of Austria, 6-2, 6-2.
De Swardt won $13,750 for her singles win and split $4,675 with Smith for winning doubles. Brandi won $6,750.