Monday, July 16, 2007

Wk.28- Winners, Losers... and Venus

After the previous Fed Cup weekend produced a string of 5-0 blowouts, competitiveness returned this time around as both semifinals (RUS/USA, ITA/FRA) came down to the deciding doubles matches.

When the dust settled, every French player not named Marion had followed up her country's successful Wimbledon campaign by taking turns crumbling under pressure. Italy, the surprise '06 Fed Cup champ, will now get a shot at winning what would be an even more surprising second consecutive championship.

Meanwhile, Russia, with its top two players pulling out before play began, still managed to return to the nation's third FC final in the last four years, overcoming a MVP-for-an-ultimately-losing-team performance from Venus Williams, who proved that she may not be satisfied with resting on the laurels of her SW19 title.

*WEEK 28*

Russia def. USA 3-2
Italy def. France 3-2
Israel def. Austria 4-1
China def. Belgium 4-1
Germany def. Japan 3-2
Spain def. Czech Republic 3-2
Ukraine def. Australia 4-1
Argentina def. Canada 4-1
Croatia def. Taiwan 3-2
Slovakia def. Serbia 4-1

Francesca Schiavone (ITA): The Italian vet, quite frankly, had had a pretty poor season up until this weekend. She was 12-15. But, playing for her country, she managed to recapture the magic that helped her lead the Noodles to the 2006 Fed Cup title. She knocked off both Amelie Mauresmo and Tatiana Golovin (after being down 5-2 in the 3rd), then teamed with Roberta Vinci to grab the team's other point in a 3-2 victory.
Venus Williams (USA): With apologies to Nadia Petrova, there are occasionally times when the losing team nonetheless produces the MVP. Venus in Vermont was one of those rare cases this weekend, as she knocked off both Top 10 Russians -- coming back from a break down twice against Petrova, then taking Anna Chakvetadze to the woodshed -- in the USA's 3-2 loss to the Hordettes. She was then forced into extra duty in the doubles match, which was won by Petrova/Vesnina to send Russia to the final. Williams attempted to take up the slack for the entire American team (and was very nearly successful in doing so, too) and was by far the best player between the two nations... win or lose.

Shahar Peer (ISR): Sure, things were a bit easier with Sybille Bammer never taking the court in the ISR/AUT clash. Still, the Corporal had a hand in three of Israel's four points as the team advanced to Group I for the first time.
Tiantian Sun (CHN): After China's Fed Cup debacle the last time out, the pressure was on against a Belgian team without, well, pretty much ANY players anyone had ever heard much about. And after Zi Yan lost in the second match to Yanina Wickmayer (yeah, see what I mean?), it was easy to expect the worst. But Sun settled the team's fortunes, knocking off Wickmayer on Day 2 and enabling the Cookies to coast back into Group I for 2008.

Tatjana Malek (GER): With Anna-Lena Groenefeld dealing with other issues (though ALG did play doubles), the 19-year old Malek took the reigns of the German team. Involved in all three of the team's points, she rescued the win from the edge of disaster after Angelique Kerber's back-to-back singles losses had given Japan a 2-1 lead.
Anabel Medina-Garrigues (ESP): Without Nicole Vaidisova to mess with, the Spaniard's task wasn't as difficult as it might have been in leading her nation to a 3-2 win over the Czech Maidens, but singles wins over Iveta Benesova and (especially) Lucie Safarova weren't necessarily givens even with AMG's good Fed Cup history.

Alona Bondarenko (UKR): The Bondarenko sisters combined to score all four points in Ukraine's 4-1 win over Australia. Alona notched singles wins over Alicia Molik and Nicole Pratt.
Maria-Emilia Salerni (ARG): With Gisela Dulko again riding her usual inconsistency rollercoaster, Salerni won both her singles matches over Canada's Aleksandra Wozniak and Stephanie Dubois to power the Argentines.
Nika Ozegovic (CRO): The 22-year old has been making a name for herself in recent weeks, and her Fed Cup performance will only continue the trend. Her wins over Yung-Jan Chan and Su-Wei Hsieh were the cornerstones of Croatia's 3-2 win over Taiwan.
Daniela Hantuchova (SVK): Last, but not least, Wonder Girl turned out to be the star in Slovakia's matchup with Serbia. AnaIvo wasn't there. Jelena Jankovic played just one match. But Hantuchova went 2-0 as the Slovaks, 2002 FC champs, began their trek back to Group I.


Kateryna Bondarenko, 20 (UKR): Whipped Nicole Pratt 6-0/6-1, and assisted in a doubles win (but not with her sister).
Dominika Cibulkova, 18 (SVK): Battled Jankovic to a 9-7 3rd set, then clinched Slovakia's win with a singles victory in Match #4.
Casey Dell'Acqua, 22 (AU): Her win over Yuliana Fedak provided Australia with its only point.
Ayumi Morita, 17, (JPN): The Rising Sunners' NextGen star got a hard-won three-set victory over Angelique Kerber.

Ana Vrljic, 22 (CRO): Her win over Chin-Wei Chan assisted Ozegovic's cause.
Yanina Wickmayer, 17 (BEL): The world #392's win over Zi Yan, however briefly, put great pressure on the Chinese effort.

Amelie Mauresmo & Tatiana Golovin (FRA): Mauresmo led Schiavone 5-3 in the 1st set of Match #2, then wilted noticably and fell in straight sets. After blowing a 5-2 1st set tie-break lead against Mara Santangelo in Match #3, though, Mauresmo at least managed to stop the tide of her recent slide by coming back to win in three sets. Problem is, she then set the stage for Golovin to inherit her nerves. Up 5-2 in the 3rd set against Schiavone, needing to win just one more game to send France to the FC final, Golovin succumbed to the pressure and a raucous Italian crowd. Unnerved, she dropped the final five games of the match and looked like she just wanted to get off the court as quickly as possible.

1. SF (ITA/FRA) Schiavone d. Golovin
Home court advantage hasn't been better utilized since the great Russian Winter vs. the Nazis clash of wills back in World World II.
2. SF (RUS/USA) V.Williams d. Petrova
You can take Venus out of Wimbledon, but you can't take Wimbledon COMPLETELY out of Venus. Sorry, Hank. Venus overcame a 5-2 1st set deficit in which Petrova held three set points, then battled back from being a break down twice in the 3rd set to win it.
3. SF (ITA/FRA) Schiavone/Vinci d. Bremond/Dechy
Could Schiavone have turned around her season in two days?
4. Biella $100K F - Agnieszka Radwanska d. Karin Knapp
A-Rad does not rest during Fed Cup week. She also got wins over Flavia Pennetta, Sara Errani, Galina Voskoboeva and Rosanna De Los Rios.
5. SF (RUS/USA) Petrova/Vesnina d. V.Williams/Raymond
Russia has depth. The U.S. team has very little.
HM- South Lake $25K F - Alexa Glatch d. Sunitha Rao
"Surfer Girl" reigns supreme.
HM- Darmstadt $25K - Stephanie Gehrlein d. Julia Goerges
The 25-year old, #548-ranked German has now won back-to-back ITF titles.

**2007 FED CUP FINAL**
Italy at Russia

**2008 GROUP I**
United States

**2008 GROUP II**
Czech Republic

**FED CUP FINALS - 2000-present**
2000 USA def. Spain 5-0
2001 Belgium def. Russia 2-1
2002 Slovakia def. Spain 3-1
2003 France def. USA 4-1
2004 Russia def. France 3-2
2005 Russia def. France 3-2
2006 Italy def. Belgium 3-2

2006 FINAL: Zvonareva d. Srebotnik
2007 TOP: Chakvetadze/Schnyder

SF: Chakvetadze d. Govortsova; Schnyder d. Mattek
FINAL: Chakvetadze d. Schnyder

...does the White Mile lead to Cincinnati, or will Anna continue the Russian success inside American borders?

2006 FINAL: Medina-Garrigues d. Garbin
2007 TOP: Krajicek/Muller

SF: A.Radwanska d. Razzano; Loit d. Gallovits
FINAL: A.Radwanska d. Loit

...A-Rad would become the first player this season to win titles on both the ITF and WTA tours.

All for now.


Blogger Eric said...

Hey Todd,

There's been 16 women in the Top10 this year. Is that some kind of record? If not, do you know what the record is?

Wed Jul 18, 03:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Well, I've kept track for the last five seasons, and here are the numbers:

2003: 14
2004: 16
2005: 16
2006: 13
2007: 16 (already)

With at least Venus and Bartoli maybe still able to move into the Top 10, this season should at least produce the most total Top 10ers in recent years. I'm not sure about the all-time number for a season, though.

Wed Jul 18, 04:25:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

Changing topic, I'm so glad Davenport is coming back to the game!! I was very happy for her deciding to raise a family, but I was sad because she is my favourite player. I was still hoping since she did't officially announced her retirement, and now she's back :D!!

I would so love her to be able to win a Slam in singles, when no one expects her. She would be a fantastic joker in the US Open draw!!

Thu Jul 19, 11:43:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Yeah, now all we need is a comeback from Kim Cl- ...ummm, well, let me not get carried away now.

Whew! That was a close one. :D

Thu Jul 19, 03:13:00 PM EDT  

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