Despite winning the first set and having an early service break in the second in her match against Florida's Shaun Stafford, Stanford's Patty Fendick knew that winning her second straight National Collegiate Athletic Assn. singles title Thursday night wasn't just a matter of a few service winners and backhand volleys.
Stafford had rallied from a similar deficit against Beverly Bowes of Texas in the quarterfinals Tuesday, and Fendick herself had barely escaped with a hard-fought victory over Stafford in last week's team competition.
Also, Stafford, a freshman, did not appear at all intimidated by Fendick's stature.
In fact, Stafford was the aggressor, on and off the court, in their short but animated rivalry. Thursday night, Fendick wore a souvenir of Stafford's handiwork, a large bruise on her left thigh, complete with a happy face drawn on the bruise.
The face was appropriate because Fendick survived her toughest test, emotionally and physically, by defeating Stafford, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2, in the final of the NCAA women's tennis championships at UCLA's L.A. Tennis Center.
"Obviously, I was a lot more nervous than I had been," said Fendick, who won her 40th match of the year and finished with a 51-match winning streak. "She played a great match. She played a super match all the way. When you want something that badly, it's a little more nerve-wracking."
And, from the way Stafford played the last match, and talked about it, Fendick knew her opponent would eventually start finding the range as the match progressed.
Last Saturday, in the team competition, Stafford had creamed a short ball at Fendick, who was at the net. When questioned about the shot before the final, Stafford made it clear that she hit Fendick intentionally.
So, Thursday night, the crowd waited to see how or whether Fendick would seek revenge. It came, sort of, when Fendick hit a passing shot that hit Stafford's racket and went wide. Stafford fell to the court, trying to get out of the way. The crowd gave Fendick and Stafford a round of applause.
"Now you're even," a fan yelled.
Fendick laughed about it later. "It's funny, I kept thinking that I'm not going to hit near her," she said. "But the ball came up and I couldn't resist.
"It was kind of funny (Stafford's previous remarks). She's a really nice girl. She made a few mistakes, and what she said, I really couldn't believe she said it. I think it helped fire me up a little bit. It inspired the happy face on my leg."
Stafford, although fired up from the crowd's reaction after the exchange, was subdued when asked about the shot and her prematch comments.
"I knew it was going to happen," she said of Fendick's shot. " . . . And we're even.
"He (Florida Coach Andy Brandi) said to look at it as a learning experience."
Brandi agreed that Stafford's lesson off the court was just as important as reaching the final.
"It's really done a lot of good for her," he said. "I basically sat her down and explained when she's in situations, she'll have to be a little more careful in her answers.
"Honesty can get you in difficulty. In sports, you have to be careful about being too honest."
In the doubles final, Northwestern's Diane Donnelly and Katrina Adams defeated Stanford's Patty Fendick and Stephanie Savides, 6-2, 6-4. Earlier, Stanford won its second straight team title.