Probably only reason Russia
didn't get swept 5-0 in Fed Cup is that they didn't
bother with the fourth singles.
Anastasia Myskina perhaps wanted
to give all her infants a chance to get some Fed Cup
exposure. Rather than have probably her best available
player, Irina Khromacheva, play the reverse singles
against Samantha Stosur, she gave the job to Victoria
Kan, who hadn't played so far. It certainly didn't help;
Stosur thumped Kan 6-2 6-3 to clinch the tie. They
didn't bother with the fourth singles, and Myskina then
teamed Khromacheva with Valeria Solovyeva, only to have
them lose 6-1 6-3 to Australia's strong pairing of
Ashleigh Barty and Casey Dellacqua. So the young
Russians all now have Fed Cup experience. Problem is,
it's a pretty bad experience....
Germany was the second team to
clinch. For the second straight day, Angelique Kerber
looked like her 2012 self, beating Dominika Cibulkova
6-3 7-6 to give the visitors an insurmountable 3-0 lead.
There, again, they skipped the fourth singles, fast
forwarding to the doubles -- with the Slovaks
substituting Cepelova/Rybarikova for their announced
team. Germany went with their listed team of
Goerges/Groenefeld. The Slovaks won that in a match
tiebreak, but it hardly matters. The Germans earn their
first World Group win in a dozen years, and they face
Australia next. If they can keep this team together, or
even get Sabine Lisicki on board, their chances look
Isn't there some sort of rule
about playing outdoors in February? Perhaps Spain should
forfeit a point or something, so that Klara Zakopalova
won't have to play two singles matches in one day,
especially on Monday? Because that's the situation she's
now facing. The rain meant that there were no matches
completed. At least Zakopalova managed half a match,
leading Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor 6-3 2-0. That still
leaves her playing one and a half matches for Monday.
The United States had its own
ongoing list of problems. American #1 Madison Keys had
looked bad on Saturday, and on Sunday, she was pulled
from the singles, replaced by Alison Riske. It didn't
work. Italy was already up 2-0 on the American team of
rookies, and Karin Knapp polished things off by beating
Riske 6-3 7-5. About the only consolation for the
Americans, as for the Russians, is that all their young
players have now "seen the elephant."
As usual, they abandoned the
fourth singles match. Both teams used their leftover
players in the doubles, and the Americans earned their
sole point as Keys/Davis beat Burnett/Matteucci 6-2 6-3.
World Group II
You almost wonder why they
bothered playing the first three singles matches in the
tie between Sweden and Poland. The results were
effectively pre-ordained; all they were doing was
risking injury. The first match of Sunday followed the
script, with Agnieszka Radwanska trouncing Johanna
Larsson 6-4 6-1. The question remained, could Sofia
Arvidsson beat Katarzyna Piter, and then could the
Swedes do something in doubles?
The first part worked; Arvidsson
seems to be in a near-terminal decline, but she really
likes indoor hardcourts, and she wasn't facing strong
opposition. She beat Piter 6-2 6-1.
That left the question of who
would play doubles for Poland. (There wasn't really any
doubt that it would be Arvidsson/Larsson for Sweden.)
And, indeed, the Poles plugged in Radwanska to play with
their doubles specialist Alicija Rosolska. Which means
that Radwanska won all three points for Poland; the
Poles won the match 6-2 6-2, and the tie 3-2.
The Swiss made a fascinating
choice in the first reverse singles match. That was
supposed to feature Stefanie Voegele against France's #1
Alize Cornet. But the Swiss instead played Timea
Bacsinszky, the most experienced player on their team
but also the most erratic and broken-down, and the
lowest-ranked. That didn't work at all; Alize Cornet
beat her 6-2 7-6. Which left the tie in the hands of the
Swiss wunderkind Belinda Bencic, who came through again,
crushing Virginie Razzano 6-1 6-1.
Which must have left both teams
frantically trying to pick a doubles lineup. The listed
teams were Garcia/Mladenovic and Bacsinszky/Golubic, but
that's just a case of "list whoever isn't playing
singles." The only really strong doubles player on
either team is France's Kristina Mladenovic. And she
still got the call -- but the French decided to play her
with Cornet. The Swiss went with Bacsinszky/Bencic,
presumably on the grounds that Bacsinszky is experienced
and Bencic is their best player right now. It wasn't
quite enough; the French won 7-5 6-4.
Argentina has only one Top
Hundred player, in Paula Ormaechea, but they also have
clay -- hardly a comfortable surface for the Japanese.
And it is particularly slow now, after overnight rain
that forced the tie to start rather late. Ormaechea
clinched by beating Kurumi Nara 6-3 6-4, beating the
forecast of more rain. As in the other ties settled in
the first three matches, they skipped the fourth
singles, going straight to the doubles. The Japanese got
a consolation point as Aoyama/Ozaki defeated
Irigoyen/Ormaechea 6-0 6-4, but really all that they
could do at that point was say, "Wait till we get you
away from this stupid clay...."
Eugenie Bouchard has been
getting better almost daily in recent months. It showed
in the first set of her match with Serbia's Vesna
Dolonc; Bouchard blasted through it in twenty minutes.
Then -- perhaps she realized that she was a set away
from winning the tie. She lost two games in a row to
start the second set -- and then roared back to win 6-0
6-3. That let them skip the fourth singles. The doubles
featured Canadian backups Dabrowski/Fichman against
Jaksic/Stojanovic. As happened in most of the cases
where one team won the first three matches (four out of
five cases), the losers managed the consolation point;
the Serbs edged the Canadians 2-6 6-3 10-8.
We have one bittersweet
statistical footnote: The ITF has been making a lot of
the fact that Anne Kremer (who is 38 years old) this
weekend played career Fed Cup tie #76 for Luxembourg.
Except... that's really more sad than anything else,
because it shows how few alternatives Luxembourg has,
and how many zonal ties they have had to play. Kremer
hasn't played a WTA main draw since Luxembourg 2011; her
last WTA win was all the way back at Kuala Lumpur 2011,
three years ago. And, yes, she lost her match, and
Luxembourg lost its tie and will be demoted another
level down the zonal ladder.
Also in the Europe/Africa
zonals, the Netherlands, Romania, Ukraine, and Belarus
won their pools; in the promotional playoff, it was
Romania taking on Ukraine and the Netherlands against
Belarus. The Dutch won easily; Romania soon followed
them back into World Group II.