Don't miss any stories Follow Tennis View

Fed Cup Saturday Report: Italy, Germany, Australia In Control

Feb 8th 2014

At the end of Saturday, we have reached the midpoint of the Fed Cup World Group quarterfinals.  Or perhaps rather more than the midpoint in some quarterfinals, for three of the four stand at 2-0.  Here is how everything unfolded around the world.

Italy 2, USA 0:  Cleveland preserved its reputation as a city known for sporting disasters.  In two statistically abysmal matches, unforced errors far outnumbered the winners on both sides and especially on the home side.  Christina McHale and Madison Keys committed 96 unforced errors to just 20 winners, placing Team USA in a similar position to their Davis Cup counterparts last weekend.  McHale did force Italian No. 1 Karin Knapp to a third set in a moment of fleeting promise.  But McHale often has struggled in three-setters since recovering from mononucleosis, and today would prove no exception.  The Italians lost four total games over the last three sets played on Saturday as Camila Giorgi routed Madison Keys despite striking only seven winners.  Captain Mary Joe Fernandez has her work cut out to turn this weekend around.  Still, each of the three remaining matches is winnable and a comeback not out of the question.

Spain 1, Czech Republic 0:  The rain didn’t stay in the plains of Spain this weekend, wreaking havoc with an outdoor tie played in Seville.  A late start and a first-set interruption in the opening rubber left the teams able to complete only one match ahead of a four-rubber Sunday.  The woman who managed the conditions (not just rain but whistling wind) would hold a clear edge, and that woman predictably was Carla Suarez Navarro.  Keeping her emotions in check better than Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, Suarez Navarro also kept her balance better on the waterlogged court.  She played remarkably confident tennis despite the weather, opening up rallies with sharply angled groundstrokes on both wings.  Most onlookers expected a comfortable win for Spain in that opening rubber, however, so the tie remains very much at issue heading into Day 2.

Andrea Petkovic

Germany 2, Slovakia 0:  Perhaps a bit more sensible than Spain, Slovakia hosted its quarterfinal in an indoor arena.  But they find themselves in the same position as Team USA, trailing their discourteous guests 2-0 after the first day.  German No. 2 Andrea Petkovic set the tone in the opening rubber of the weekend’s most intriguing quarterfinal.  That is, Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova initially set the tone by sweeping through a routine first set, only to see Petkovic come storming back.  Cibulkova held a match point in a second-set tiebreak that would have given Slovakia the lead that they expected.  Dumping a return of serve into the net, she would not earn another chance.  Full marks to Petkovic, inconsistent since her 2011 breakthrough season, for finding the courage to mount a comeback in a hostile environment against a superior foe.  Fed Cup stalwart Daniela Hantuchova attempted to mirror that feat against top-10 opponent Angelique Kerber, who needed to save set points in the first set.  Once past that dangerous crossroads, the German No. 1 restored order and kept the momentum with her team. 

Australia 2, Russia 0:  In general, this tie has been the mismatch that everyone expected.  Neither of the singles matches on Day 1 lasted an hour as Russia won just six games in four sets.  Four of those games came in one surprisingly tight set between two women ranked over 600 places apart.  Veronika Kudermetova never has played a match at the WTA level, yet she nearly took world No. 16 Samantha Stosur to 5-5 in the first set.  Perhaps Stosur’s nerves from playing on home soil shrank the chasm of talent that yawned between them.  Reality returned with a second-set bagel.  Stosur should wrap up proceedings first thing tomorrow against Irina Khromacheva in a tie where the most compelling sights are Russian captain Anastasia Myskina and the Tasmanian terrain outside the arena.