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Fed Cup Weekend Summary





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 pretty good.

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.


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