For Italy and Australia, today was just more of yesterday in the Fed Cup semifinals. Petra Kvitova defeated Roberta Vinci (subbing for Sara Errani) in straight sets, clinching her country's spot in the 2014 Fed Cup final. The fourth rubber was skipped and the doubles rubber was played, and the Czech Republic won that, too, with Andrea Hlavackova and Klara Koukalova beating Camila Giorgi and Karin Knapp 6-2, 5-7, 11-9.
In Brisbane, Angelique Kerber won the deciding match, defeating Sam Stosur 4-6, 6-0, 6-4 in the third rubber. The doubles rubber was played in that tie, too, and Australia won it, so they went down 1-3. Taken out of the semifinals by both Germans, Stosur can't be feeling too good right now. Australia's top player just cannot perform on home turf.
Who would have guessed that Sorana Cirstea would be Romania's Fed Cup star this weekend? The talented but wildly inconsistent Cirstea followed up her victory over friend Ana Ivanovic with a 6-3, 6-6, 6-3 victory over Bojana Jovanovski, putting Romania into the World Group. And what a match it was. It took Cirstea six match points to get the job done, and there were many moments when Jovanovski looked like she was going to take control of the match. She took the long road, but the shaky Romanian won. There was an attempt to play the doubles rubber, but the Serbian team retired in the second game of the first set.
I have to hand it to Cirstea. A player who seems to practically walk onto the court mentally conflicted, she nevertheless found a way to beat her best friend, and to equalize Simona Halep's 1-1 record for the weekend.
Also in World Group II Play-Offs, Sweden defeated Thailand 4-0, and Switzerland defeated Brazil 4-1 (Timea Bacsinszky was the star). The Netherlands beat Japan 3-2. Team Bertens and Rus actually clinched the tie at 3-1 but the doubles rubber was played, and Japan won it.
The USA and France had to go to a deciding fifth rubber in doubles. Sloane Stephens defeated Virginie Razzano, who substituted for an ailing Alize Cornet (causing commentator Rennae Stubbs to "sort of" apologize for her not-so-veiled speculation that Cornet's leg pain was less than significant). Stephens had a pretty easy time of it, but then Caroline Garcia took to the court again and beat Madison Keys in straight sets.
For the doubles rubber, both nations tossed out their originally announced teams and went with today's singles players, i.e., Keys/Stephens vs. Garcia/Razzano. Stephens had an excellent junior record as a doubles player, making her the only one of the four with any kind of doubles record of which to speak. The irony is that the USA has a real wealth of great doubles players--the Williams sisters, of course, but also Vania King, Lisa Raymond, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Raquel Kops-Jones, and Abigail Spears. King and Mattek-Sands are also good singles players. Mattek-Sands, when she isn't injured (as she is right now) and can create some momentum, is an especially fine singles player.
But I digress. The Frenchwomen won the first set pretty easily and it looked as though they would cruise through the second, but Keys and Stephens, down a double break, were able to get those breaks back. That was as far as it went, though, as France pulled off the win at 6-2, 7-5. France's 3-2 victory over the USA puts the spotlight on Caroline Garcia, who put the "3" into 3-2. Garcia's amazing Fed Cup weekend (her first one ever) comes only a week after she won both the singles and doubles titles in Bogota. Some of that spotlight needs to shine on captain Amelie Mauresmo, too. (And I have to believe that Marion Bartoli's fighting spirit also hovered over that French team.)
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the close French win is that Mauresmo's team pulled it off with two of their key players injured. Kristina Mladenovic, who is frequently half of a very successful doubles team known as Mladenovic and Anybody, had to withdraw from the competition because of an arm injury. Then France's top player, Cornet, sustained an injury during the first day of play and had to be replaced by Virginie Razzano today. Razzano lost her singles rubber, but she was an able partner for Garcia in doubles. Fed Cup--where anything can happen, and usually does!
Russia redeemed its World Group status with a 4-0 win over Argentina. Canada emerged 3-1 over the Slovak Republic (Jana Cepelova lost to both Wozniak and Bouchard) and Poland beat Spain 3-2. That was kind of interesting, with one Radwanska (Aga) winning both of her singles rubbers, and the other Radwanska losing both of hers. But then the elder Radwanska teamed with Alicja Rosolska to beat the Spaniards in straight sets in doubles. On clay, in Barcelona. Well done, A-Rad!