Wk.16 - Another Swiss Miss? (and other Fed Cup Afterthoughts)
A few random spins on things following a weekend of Fed Cup action:
...Lindsay Davenport says she'll make sure that Venus and Serena Williams play FC for the U.S. the rest of the season. This is funny for two reasons. One, because we all know that if the Sisters play FC again in '05 it'll be because they want to, and will have absolutely nothing to do with what Davenport asks of them. And, two, because before this past weekend, Davenport herself hadn't played FC for the American team since 2002.
...Raise your hand if you'd heard of Johanna Larsson before this weekend. Raise your hand if you STILL haven't heard of her. If you're in the latter group, see below.
...Anastasia Myskina could have used Russia's 1st Round defense of it's 2004 Fed Cup title as a launch pad for re-starting her disappointing season. It didn't happen, though, since an injury from Charleston forced her to pull out of the tie with Italy over the weekend (she was replaced by Dinara Safina). It's pretty typical of how her season has gone. Ultimately, the Czarina's absence didn't hurt the Russian team, as Elena Dementieva assumed the role of team leader and carried the Horde through to the SF to face the U.S. for the first time since '99.
...Hey, who needs Amelie Mauresmo when you have Virginie Razzano, right? Right?
...The last time a 15-year old Swiss Miss got this much attention her name was Martina. This time, it's Timea (once again, see below).
...Hmmm... if Sanja Ancic can begin to win outside of Croatia, we might have something here.
...Fed Cup Group I winning team MVPs: Russia: Elena Dementieva USA: Lindsay Davenport Spain: Nuria Llagostera-Vives France: Virginie Razzano
...Fed Cup Group II winning team MVPs: Switzerland: Timea Bacsinszky Germany: Anna-Lena Groenefeld Croatia: Jelena Kostanic Czech Republic: Kveta Peschke
...Oh, to be in Warsaw this week. These are all potential matchups: Kuznetsova/Clijsters, Henin-Hardenne/Mauresmo and...
...Henin-Hardenne/Clijsters! Can you feel it?
==FED CUP 1st Round==
Russia def. Italy 4-1
USA def. Belgium 5-0
Spain def. Argentina 3-2
France def. Austria 4-1
Switzerland def. Slovak Republic 3-2
Germany def. Indonesia 4-1
Croatia def. Thailand 3-2
Czech Republic def. Japan 3-2
==SEMIFINAL MATCHUPS (July)==
Russia vs. USA, Spain vs. France
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Elena Dementieva
...Punch-Sober stepped in for the injured Czarina as team member Numero Uno, and proceeded to climb out of a four matchpoint-down hole against Francesca Schiavone. A loss would have meant the defending champs trailed the Italians 2-1. As things turned out, Russia won 4-1. A new leader is born.
RISERS: Virginie Razzano & Jelena Kostanic
...without Mauresmo or Golovin, the French faced the Austrians and saw Nathalie Dechy upset by Yvonne Meusburger to start things off. Panic could have set in, but Razzano calmed the storms with back-to-back singles victories as the Pastries sailed to a 4-1 win. Kostanic put the Croat team on her shoulders, taking part in all three victories (including a three-setter over Suchanan Viratprasert) in the tight 3-2 win over Thailand.
SURPRISE: Johanna Larsson
...the 16-year old Swede went 3-0 in Europe/Africa Zone play, including a win over veteran Anne Kremer, who outranked her by nearly 800 places on the WTA computer.
VETERANS: Lindsay Davenport & Maggie Maleeva
...Davenport, in her first FC action since '02, went 2-0 against the remains of the JHH/Kim-less Belgian team, running her Fed Cup winning streak to 23 matches. In Europe/Africa Zone action, Maleeva went 3-0 (including a big three-setter over Michaela Krajicek) along with teenager Sesil Karatancheva (also 3-0) as Bulgaria advanced to the World Group II playoffs in July.
FRESH FACES: Timea Bacsinszky & Viktoria Azarenka
...15-year old Bacsinszky was the star in Switzerland's come-from-behind win over the Slovaks. With the team down 1-2, with only the teen's win over Martina Sucha in hand, Bacsinszky took out Lubomira Kurhajcova and then teamed with Myriam Casanova in the deciding doubles match to carry the Swiss into 2006's Group I. 15-year old Azarenka, the Belarussian Australian Open Jr. singles AND doubles winner from January, went 3-0 in Zone play (with wins over Shahar Peer, Tina Pisnik & Katerina Bondarenko), but it went for naught as her country failed to advance.
DOWN: Anastasia Myskina & Francesca Schiavone
...the Russians still won without Myskina, Sharapova, Kuznetsova, Zvonareva or Petrova in action. But a collapse was closer to reality than the 4-1 final score would seem to profess. Now, the Czarina will be pressed to follow though (or not) on her threat to walk out on the team should the Supernova come aboard in the SF in July. Schiavone had Dementieva down 4 MPs, any one of which could have put the defending champs' backs to the wall. But she failed to convert, then lost the 3rd set at love. Ouch.
1.Group I 1r -- Dementieva d. Schiavone
...4-6/7-6/6-0. A 2:35 match that could determine the '05 Fed Cup Championship, considering the Russian team should be fully-loaded come the SF... and maybe crown a new Horde team leader?
2.Dothan (ITF) 1r -- Harkleroad d. Reeves
...6-3/6-4. American Splendor's first victory since August, in just her second event of '05. She lost in the 2nd Round to Edina Gallovits, but the important thing is that she's started down the long road back.
3.Eur/Afr I -- Johanna Larsson d. Anne Kremer
...7-5/3-6/6-3. How Swede it is.
4.Group II 1r -- Benesova/Peschke d. Morigami/Obata
...4-6/6-3/6-0. This decided the tie, as the Czech Maidens advanced by a 3-2 score to the the '06 Group I. Japan led 2-1 before Peschke defeated Rika Fujiwara in singles, and then claimed this win with Benesova.
5.Bol (ITF) F -- Sanja Ancic d. Ivana Lisjak
...7-5/6-4. Mario's 16-year old sis has now won three straight titles, all in her native Croatia, and 15 consecutive matches.
**2006 FED CUP GROUP I**
**2005 ITF TITLE LEADERS**
4...Kristina Barrois (GER, 23 yrs.old)
4...Romina Oprandi (ITA, 19)
3...Sanja Ancic (CRO, 16)
3...Madalina Gojnea (ROM, 17)
3...Mervana Jugic-Salkic (BIH, 25)
==WEEK 17 PERSISTENT SMILE?==
...so far, I've been keeping the return of Cantin at bay. After getting JHH's victory in Charleston under by predicting belt, I went 7-1 with my Fed Cup picks last week (including five times with the correct score -- missing two more by the hair of a Meusburger upset, and a deciding Swiss/Slovak doubles match). So, I'm crossing my fingers that I can continue the trend and be in good shape to send the Holy Webmaster home with his "predicting head" in his hands after we face off on a more "even" playing field, for once.
WARSAW, POLAND (II-Red Clay)
04 F: V.Williams d. Kuznetsova
05 TOP: Mauresmo/Kuznetsova
FINAL: Henin-Hardenne d. Clijsters
...just like old times? Of note, if these two meet in the final they'll be carrying a combined 28-match winning streak (18 for Clijsters, 10 for JHH) into the clash.
ESTORIL, PORTUGAL (IV-Red Clay)
04 F: Loit d. Benesova
05 TOP: Pennetta/Safina
FINAL: Pennetta d. Safina
...if the injury that kept her out of FC play this weekend isn't still bothering her. Dark horse: Alyona Bondarenko, who went 3-1 in FC play last week and opened up Monday by beating back Jelena Dokic in three sets. Next week: April awards. All for now.