Gold for Jon Rydberg and Kaitlyn Verfuerth, Silver for Beth Arnoult-Ritthaler as Wheelchair Tennis Competition Concludes at Parapan American Games
by Marvin Olberding - U.S. Paralympics
RIO DE JANEIRO - Jon Rydberg (Oakdale, Minn.) proved Friday that his No. 1 ranking in the men’s singles draw at the Parapan American Games was well-deserved, making short work of Chile’s Robinson Mendez and winning the gold as wheelchair tennis competition concluded at the Parapan American Games.
Rydberg set the tone early, winning the first three games of the match before Mendez was able to hold serve and gain his only game of the first set. The second set was followed a similar formula, as Rydberg continued to hit all his shots well and made few mistakes in closing out the match, 6-1, 6-1.
The No. 1 seed coming into the tournament, Rydberg maintained a very business-like approach all week, and looked back on the tournament in the same fashion.
“I wanted to start fast and, thankfully, he made some errors that made my job easier,” Rydberg said. “I just had to stay steady, not do anything fancy and just go through the match after that.
“This tournament was a good stepping stone heading towards Beijing, just getting the confidence hitting the shots you need to hit.”
“Jon clearly came to play today,” said head coach Dan James (Oakdale, Minn.). “He had a great game plan and he played relaxed. He played with incredible confidence and it turned into a dominant performance.”
In the all-U.S. women’s singles final, Kaitlyn Verfuerth (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) defeated Beth Arnoult-Ritthaler (Paia, Hawaii), 6-3, 6-1, in a match that played much closer than what the final tally indicated, just one day after the pair combined to win the women’s doubles gold medal.
After the match, Verfuerth expressed both elation and relief after beating her teammate.
“I’m really excited about winning the gold,” Verfuerth said. “I was really nervous coming into the match because it’s always hard facing someone from the U.S., but I was able to play well and it all worked out.”
Assistant coach Jason Harnett (Irvine, Calif.), who coaches Verfuerth in southern California, said he was happy with the 22-year-old’s composure throughout the final.
“As a young player, she still plays with a lot of emotion,” Harnett said. “We talk about keeping your emotions in check and hitting through the ball, even in big matches. Today, she hit through the ball very well, and it’s a good sign of things to come, hopefully, from one of our youngest and best players.”
In assessing the match, James chose to look at the overall performance of both players, which he said he was quite happy with.
“When you have two from your own team playing, it’s really hard,” James said. “As a coaching staff, we were pleased that they played aggressive, solid tennis. A lot of times the score does not reflect how close the match is or how well each player played, and we were very happy with their performance.”
After the final match was over, members of the International Tennis Federation, venue workers and volunteers and athletes from several countries came together at Center Court for a closing celebration of music, dancing and good-byes.
The U.S. Parapan American Wheelchair Tennis Team ends competition with three gold medals and two silver medals, but the awards won’t be the only thing the team remembers about Rio.
“The organization, the venue and the way the players were taken care of was outstanding,” said head coach Dan James (Oakdale, Minn.) of the team’s time at the Parapan American Games. “We’ll leave here believing that it was a great experience.”
For more information, contact Marvin Olberding at firstname.lastname@example.org.