Sunday, April 20, 2014

Czech Republic and Germany advance to Fed Cup final

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!


Sabey said...

The US certainly didn't have their best players either and I thought that Keys and Stephens did pretty well. Garcia is really on a roll right now. Hope she can sustain it to do some damage at the French open.

Diane said...

Keys and Stephens did the best they could. Stephens used to play a lot of doubles in juniors--she won big, too, and she probably needs to play doubles now.

Garcia and Cornet should both be fun to watch at the French Open.

Sabey said...

I am starting to think that Garcia has more potential than all the other hot young things of the moment(except maybe Halep). She is a natural athlete with fluid easy power and great movement. She seems very focused and (finally) mentally strong.

Diane said...

Well, Halep has been around a while and I kind of consider her as having "already arrived."

Of the others, I don't know--Garcia, Svitolina, Bencic, Cepelova, Vekic--there are so many with hot potential. I know Cepelova isn't always mentioned on that special list, but after seeing her in Charleston, I believe she belongs on it. The mental part is very strong with her.

I do think that Bouchard is right on the cusp; I don't think Stephens is. I even think that Stephens may be over-rated; having "the shots" isn't everything.

Having said all that--to see Garcia go crazy on everyone two weeks in a row was pretty impressive.

Diane said...

I know it. They should keep that one under careful wrap and make sure she's healthy and available for Fed Cup. I wonder why she hasn't been on the team lately?

Sabey said...

68I think Bouchard is overrated just the way Sloane was a year ago. Maybe I am just irritated by all the media attention on just one upcoming player. I am buying Svitolina, Garcia, Bencic and Vekic.

Diane said...

It is indeed kind of irritating, but we know why it happens.

I do think Bouchard is getting better all the time, though, and she's a very poised, articulate young woman, which leads me to believe she's taking it all in stride.

sunny nine said...

Well first I think that it was great for Garcia to follow up her first win with a great weekend. Often we don't see follow-ups after 1st titles. She may be right on target to peak for Roland Garros.
As far as over-rated goes it is difficult to know when things will click. I believe with Stephens it is something mental and Bouchard seems to be handling things maturely but still waiting for that first title. I don't think one can tell anything by winning a 1st title or not. Some use it to spur them on, others are barely heard from again. With Halep it turned her into a tornado. It is consistency into continuing to move up in each tournament. a 3rd rd here, a quarterfinal there, then semis. The further a person goes in a tournament it would seem that they would possibly be taking out a top player. That is the problem I have for Stephens. At first it was all about the majors but if you don't take out top players in "regular" tournaments, it will be difficult to consistently do it at majors. I have an excel sheet on the 1990 players keeping track of things. There are a lot of them out there getting decent results.
I was happy to see A Wozniak win a rubber for Canada. It is good to see her making progress after fighting injury.
I think the WTA and the media do not cultivate a "wait and see" attitude about players. Sure we should hold up a young player that does something well but to start talking about the next big "thing" to come is often too soon for that.

Diane said...

Well, as always, Sunny, your commentary is filled with clarity and speaks volumes about the hype that goes on surrounding WTA (and ATP) players. There's little doubt in my mind that the hype process has hurt Sloane.

Players do have some time (unless they are seriously injured) to "grow into" their potential. Halep the Tornado is a perfect example (I'm proud to have believed in her for so long!). And look at Cornet--she has somehow managed to overcome a very long slump and lean into her potential. Another great example is Cibulkova, who wasn't content to be just "good."

Remember when Paszek was "the next big thing"? It never happened. Vaidisova never really happened. Pavlyuchenkova is a long, drawn-out work in progress. While you're waiting for the next "star" to be fully realized, a Halep or a Cibulkova (or maybe a Cepelova?) sneaks in and wins the big matches.

Todd.Spiker said...

The one player that I can think of that experienced the entire spectrum was Capriati.

Young phenom. Immediate success. Too much fame. Crash. Comeback. Even greater success. Then an injury that ended her career earlier than anticipated.

So much could be learned by young players (and media and tennis organization), on and off court, just looking at every aspect of her career.

Of course, her early "legacy" does still carry on with the "Capriati rule" (which Vekic, incidentally, is still operating under), so there's that.

Diane said...

JenniCap's career is indeed an object lesson, and not just for sports. A less instinctive player wouldn't have survived it at all, but Jennifer' "street fighter" mentality--for better and worse, got her into the Hall of Fame. It's actually hard to imagine anyone being that resiliant these days.

Is the Capriati rule approriate for every young player? Probably not, but I think it's a good thing in most cases. They don't make 'em like Chris Evert anymore.

sunny nine said...

I don't know if you remember the 2007 US Open and the 3rd rd. First of all the media had Sharapova already in the finals because they thought she had a soft draw as opposed to the other half which had both Williams sisters and Henin. In the 3rd rd 4 teens took out seeds. ARadwanska took out Sharapova, Szavay took out Petrova, Paszek took out Schnyder, and Azarenka took out Hingis. All 4 showed promise, 2 "made it", 1 was on the way but got sidelined w a persistent injury and the other never materialized. BTW, A-rad had a long dry spell just like Cornet did, so who knows what will happen. A-rad went from 2008-2011 before she hit her stride and another title (3 in 08).
Just a trip down memory lane. Glad my first post made sense. Funny, I don't feel like I write or think well when I can't type well. The broken finger is not healing and physical therapy not going well.
I am here always reading your blog, Diane!

Diane said...

That was a crazy U.S. Open. Poor Agnes--she had a fabulous backhand. It turned out that she has a nasty form of arthritis and it ended her career.

And yes, you never really know who's going to be consistent, who isn't, and who's going to quietly move to the top while no one is looking. Thupis time next year, the "promising" list could be shuffled around.

Sunny, I'm so sorry about your finger. I wonder why p.t. isn't working. Have you considered acupuncture? With my own injuries, I've had success with p.t., chiropractic adjustment, massage, and acupuncture, often using more than one at the same time. I'm also lucky in that I've had brilliant practitioners, and they all work with each other as a team.

My friend is currently going through a long haul with her feet, and is utilizing podiatry, chiropractic medicine and acupuncture all together. The work one practitioner does enables another one to do his work, etc. I found this to be the case when I had thoracic outlet syndrome--the p.t. needed the chiropractor, who needed the lmt, and so on.

Sabey said...

Thanks Sunny nine for the flashback and the reminder that upcoming player's careers can go in unexpected ways.
Diane, thanks for this great forum and your insights. This really is one of the most thoughtful places to discuss women's tennis.

Diane said...

Thank you, Sabey :)