Italy is now one match away from winning a second consecutive Fed Cup final. The defending champions won both singles rubbers against the USA today. In the first match, first-time Fed Cup player Coco Vandeweghe was defeated 6-2, 6-4 by Francesca Schiavone. Vandeweghe was visibly anxious in the first set, but calmed down in the second, and occasionally issued a challenge to Schiavone.
The second match had some high drama. A tired and physically down Flavia Pennetta--playing her 72nd singles match of the season (she has also played 64 doubles matches)--was still able to go up 5-1 in the first set. But then her opponent, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, won five straight games. Pennetta held, and a tiebreak ensued.
Mattek-Sands, who is always fun to watch, worked so hard to get into the tiebreak, but then experienced a loss of focus, which gave Pennetta the first set. "After a while, I was beginning to breathe," Pennetta commented later about the tight first set. "For a while, I wasn't breathing at all."
By this time, the two players had competed for an hour and 23 minutes. Several games into the second set, Mattek-Sands began to cramp. Pennetta knew that something was going on, but--she revealed later--she didn't know what it was, and she allowed her confusion to overcome her focus. As a result, Mattek-Sands, who received routine treatment during a changeover, was able to hang in for a while against the Italian. Pennetta won the set 6-2, however.
Mattek-Sands is scheduled to play Francesca Schiavone in tomorrow's first match, but, of course, whether she plays depends on how well she recovers from the cramping. Vandeweghe is scheduled to play Pennetta, though there was some talk today about substituting Melanie Oudin. Mattek-Sands' health will dictate some of the decisions that USA captain Mary Joe Fernandez makes tomorrow.
The Italian players both displayed end-of-the-season weariness. "You arrive 'finished'," Schiavone said of the fatigue involved in traveling from Doha to California; Pennetta said she had not been feeling too good all week.