She had trouble with her first serve and threw in far more double faults than anyone could want -- especially in a championship match.
But the rest of Carolyn Schopp's game proved consistent and her all-around solid play helped her take her first Buffalo Muny Women's Open tennis title with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Michelle Mitchell on Saturday morning at Delaware Park.
It was a case where the 31-year-old Schopp, with some consistency and experience, outlasted the punches of the 20-year old Mitchell, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania who suffered from some youthful mistakes in the Muny championships.
"[The win] means a lot to me, I think more for own sense of self than anything," Schopp said. "I can still play and still compete and if I get out there and give it a go I've still got a chance. I think that does a lot just for my own self-confidence. I felt really happy all week because I've been competing. I love to compete so getting out here and winning, too, feels nice."
In order to win, Schopp had to calm her nerves and adjust to playing from behind at several points during the day.
Mitchell jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first set, taking advantage of Schopp's unsteady serve.
"I admit I was nervous today," Schopp said. "I was tight and I couldn't hit a first serve to save my life. I pretty much hit second serves all match and it was hard because I do rely on my serve usually to get free points and I couldn't do that at all."
Schopp calmed herself, though, and got herself back in the match and in control, winning the next eight games.
The turning point came in the eighth game of the first set when Schopp came back from 15-40. She fought off two more break points before winning to get to 4-4.
"I think that helped me because we had some good points and some long points," Schopp said of that game. "Because I was missing shots, when you can start to play some long points you start to feel your confidence grow. Then especially when you can pull those out it feels good."
Schopp took a 3-0 lead to start the second set, but Mitchell fought back, taking advantage of Schopp's double faults to earn a break and make it 3-1.
Play continued on serve with Schopp serving for the match at 5-4. She fell behind, 15-40, but forced deuce and eventually won on her second match point.
"I felt good after the first [set] and the next couple games and then at 3-0 we had a very long game and she really started to just keep everything in and put pressure on me," Schopp said. "I think I was then trying to overplay the points because she was putting so much pressure on me. She hit some great shots and I missed one or two and there you go, it's all tight again. . . . She's got a great forehand and she's very athletic and quick."
"I started off well and then I had a lapse of consistency. I started to spray," said Mitchell, who played in her first tournament in five months since having rotator cuff surgery. "She played a good match the whole way through. She's a consistent player and I was streaky, up and down and in the end I just made a few more errors at crucial points and she was steadier."
The Men's Open Finals will feature two-time defending champion Ken White against David Pourin at 9:30 a.m. today at the McMillan courts in Delaware Park.