Barbara Rittner, 41, has been captain of the German Fed Cup team since 2005. In the 1990s, she was among Germany’s best tennis players and at the height of her career in 1993 was ranked number 24 in the world. Ms. Rittner, who now calls Cologne her home, has earned close to $2 million during her career.
Ms. Rittner’s most successful player at present is Angelique Kerber, 27, who is ranked number ten in the world. A native of Bremen, who also holds Polish citizenship, reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2012. So far, Ms. Kerber has earned more than $7 million in prize money.
It’s the first round of the Fed Cup in Stuttgart, the top international team competition in women’s tennis. The team led by Barbara Rittner is continuing its strong play and has just won against Australia. Last year, 2014, was a good year for Mr. Rittner and her team. For the first time in more than 20 years, Germany’s women of tennis had reached the finals again.
Handelsblatt: Ms. Rittner, the expectations placed on your team this season are high.
Barbara Rittner: That’s normal after our ladies played so successfully last year. Perhaps it wasn’t so bad that three players were eliminated in the first round of the Australian Open in January, which lowered the expectations somewhat. Many fans already are talking about the finals.
Isn’t that the goal?
Ms. Rittner: Naturally, that’s what we have set in our minds, but it is a damn long way there. In 2014, they were celebrating us for having made it to the Fed Cup semi-finals. After the finals, that is now expected. That’s how quickly the outlooks change.
When you took the federal team coaching job more than 10 years ago, there were no really well-known German players. Today, a couple of names immediately come to mind. How did you do that?
Ms. Rittner: I quickly noticed that the players back then didn’t have the qualities to be among the front runners and made a generational cut. Some fantastic girls moved up such as Angelique Kerber, Andrea Petkovic, Sabine Lisicki, Julia Görges and Anna-Lena Grönefeld. I have shown them over the years that I believe in them. And they worked hard.
Who and what was necessary to completely rebuild this team?