His hands were "chewed up like a meatgrinder," but Brian Gottfried was feeling little pain yesterday after defeating Raul Ramirez, his long time doubles partner, to win his second straight Volvo Tennis Classic at Smith Center.
Gottfried, the world's fifth-ranked player, had five cracked and raw callouses taped on the hand that grips his racket.
But after his 7-5, 7-6 victory, Gottfried earned enough, $21,250, to keep him in hand lotion for years.
Gottfried did not lose a set in five matches this week, although he came close to being beaten by Ramirez. He trailed, 4-2, then 15-40 on his next serve in the first set and trailed by 2-0 and 4-3 in the second set tie breaker before rallying smartly with the aid of a Ramirez double fault. Gottfried won the 12-point tie breaker, 7-4.
"I had my chances in the first set," Ramirez said. "I had him 4-2, and then 15-40 on his next serve. If I win that game, the whole match can change and turn around. But that's tennis."
Ramirez could console himself with a check for $10,625. He also stuck with his strategy of playing the aggressive power game he says he needs to defeat the world's best players.
"I am satisfied," he said. "I'm going to stay with this style."
Gottfried's style hardly varied all week. His serve once again was superb, he hit his volleys deep and kept Ramirez off balance with some spectacular returns of first serves.
"I started dominating him in the beginning," Ramirez said "but then he changed tactics. He stayed back a little more and it was hard for me to get into any kind of groove."
Gottfried was at his best when he feel behind. In the pivotal eighth game of the first set, Ramirez had three break points after he hit a booming forehand down the line.
But Gottfried got back to deuce when Ramirez hit a routine lob too deep took the advantage on a crosscourt backhand volley and breathed a sign of relief when Ramirez missed an easy backhand at the net.
Gottfried broke Ramirez in the 11th game on two spectacular points. He took the advantage on a cross-court volley after sending Ramirez up against the wall to return smashes. He broke through on a fine running cross-court return of a Ramirez drop shot.
Gottfried held service easily for the set, and both men had service breaks in the second set. Gottfried broke Ramirez for a 5-4 lead in the ninth game on a wicked backhand passing shot, only to lose his next service when he netted a backhand volley.
In the tie breaker, Ramirez took a 2-0 lead when Gottfried hit a bakchand out, then double faulted. Ramirez was leading 4-3, and had two serves when he made his biggest blunder of the day, a double-fault that tied the tie breaker at 4-all.
"I have been trying to hit the ball hard all during the tournament," Ramirez said, "and I probably tried to hit it too hard on that second serve. Maybe. I shouldn't have done that and played conservative. I took a chance, and I paid for it but I'd probably do it again."
"I just said wheeeeew to myself on that double-fault," Gottfried said. "And then I told myself to go hard for the next one, too." So he did.
Gottfried hit a hard backhand passing shot, that Ramirez could not get his racket on, for a 5-4 lead. He took a 6-4 advantage with an ace only his third of the match, and won the title with another stong first serve. Ramirez got a piece of the ball just enough to lob it barely over the net, and Gottfried put him away with an easy forehand.
Gottfried's victory was his first in five tournaments this season.He now has beaten Ramirez 11 of 20 matches. A year ago, Gottfried won $460,000 in prize money second only to Jimmy Connors, and he says he will begin to gear up for major outdoor tournaments by taking three of the next four weeks off from tournament play.
Still, that ugly looking right hand won't get much of a break. "I'll still be practicing every day, playing in a few exhibitions, that kind of thing" he said.
He iwll go back home to Bonaventure, Fla., rather contented. "I'm very satisfied with my play the last few weeks," he said. "Today I felt like I was hitting good ground storkes and I was getting good depth. He couldn't attack.
"I would stay back, move the ball around and wait for him to hit short. I guess that's my new style. And on the big points I had the serve when I needed it."