Tennis News Wire -
Francesca Schiavone may finally be getting old.
At least, she isn't playing like a Top Fifteen player these days. Of course, she gets to shift to clay next week, which will surely help. But she couldn't do much for Italy on the first day of Fed Cup. She fell 7-6 6-1 to the Czech Republic's Lucie Safarova. And that was clearly Italy's best hope for the tie. Nor did things get better. The Italians played Sara Errani at #2 singles, because she has been hot lately -- but she has been hot on clay. This is indoor hardcourt. And Petra Kvitova -- the best fastcourt player of 2011 -- finally showed some of that form with a 6-4 6-3 win. The Czechs are up 2-0, with Kvitova to face Schiavone next.
It must be nice to have a team you don't have to think about. Serbia has Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic, and if they're both on the team, they play. If one of them is missing, Bojana Jovanovski takes her place. It's that simple.
Russia, though, had choices to make -- and they made some strange ones. Such as putting slumping Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at #1 singles. They paid; Jelena Jankovic beat her 6-3 6-4. But if the Russians had had one bad idea, they also had a good one in playing Svetlana Kuznetsova at #2 singles. She was ranked #3 on the team, but she is the most experienced and strongest player they had -- and she showed it with a 6-2 2-6 6-4 victory over Ivanovic. So that contest is level. Now we wait to see if Pavlyuchenkova plays the reverse singles....
It didn't take long for the Americans to take complete control of their playoff tie. Christina McHale did have a little bit of a letdown, but it was brief. She beat Lesia Tsurenko 6-1 4-6 6-3. And then Serena Williams beat 17-year-old Elina Svitolina 6-2 6-1 to put the Ukrainians behind 2-0.
Japan also built a quick 2-0 lead. Ayumi Morita beat Alison van Uytvanck 6-4 6-4, and then Kimiko Date-Krumm took care of Tamaryn Hendler (who is less than half Date-Krumm's age and even so the oldest player on Belgium's team) 6-1 6-4.
It was no surprise when Samantha Stosur opened the tie against Germany with a 7-6 6-4 win over Angelique Kerber. But then came a shocker: Jarmila Gajdosova, who has been falling steadily in the rankings, beat Julia Goerges 6-4 6-4. Considering that Goerges has to defend Stuttgart next week (and that those points are coming off this week), things don't look too good for Goerges.
Or for Germany.
The surface is doing its best to make the tie between Spain and the Slovak Republic interesting. The Spaniards of course chose clay. That didn't bother Dominika Cibulkova at all; she crushed Lourdes Dominguez Lino 6-3 6-0. But Daniela Hantuchova is no fan of clay; she managed to lose 7-6 6-4 to Silvia Soler Espinosa.
Turning to the World Group Playoffs, it appears Polona Hercog's problems are worse than expected. She was supposed to play #1 singles for Slovenia, but she was pulled off, leaving 17-year-old Nastja Kolar to play #2 singles behind #1 Petra Rampre. With France having two veterans to play their side, it didn't take long for the French to go up 2-0; Virginie Razzano beat Rampre 2-6 6-4 6-4; Pauline Parmentier topped Kolar 6-2 6-3.
Sweden's team doesn't have much depth, but it has two reasonably strong players, and that's all that you need on day one. Johanna Larsson opened the tie with Great Britain by beating Elena Baltacha 6-1 7-5; Sofia Arvidsson put the Swedes up 2-0 by beating Anne Keothavong 6-1 6-4.
Switzerland and Belarus are both struggling for players these days. It's not too surprising that they split on day one. Olga Govortsova, Belarus's #1, beat Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky (who has never really recovered from injury) 6-4 6-4; Stephanie Voegele then beat 18-year-old Allaksandra Sasnovich 6-0 5-7 6-3. It seems likely that this will come down to the doubles, and Belarus, with Govortsova and Darya Kustova, probably have the edge there. But it could be a rather messy process along the way.
China would surely have wiped the floor with Argentina had they had any of their top players. But they didn't -- as in, didn't have them and didn't do any floor-wiping. In fact, Argentina is up 2-0. Paula Ormaechea beat Zhou Yi-Miao 6-2 6-2; Florencia Molinero topped Wang Qiang 6-3 6-4.