Sunday, April 22, 2018

Czech Republic and USA reach Fed Cup final

Germany's Julia Goerges found her serve again today, and when Goerges finds her serve, it's generally bad news for whoever is on the other side of the net, even a big server like Karolina Pliskova. In today's opening World Group Fed Cup semifinal rubber between Germany and the Czech Republic, Goerges maintained a remarkable 92/75 first and second serve win percentage, and defeated Pliskova 6-4, 6-2.

That gave Germany hope, but it wasn't enough. In the next rubber, Petra Kvitova defeated Angie Kerber 6-2, 6-2, putting her country back into the Fed Cup final yet again.

The Czech team's opponents in that final will be defending champions USA. Entering the second day of semifinal competition with a 1-1 score against France, team USA won both of today's rubbers. Sloane Stephens handily defeated Kiki Mladenovic 6-2, 6-0 in under an hour.

In the second rubber, team captain Kathy Rinaldi substituted Madison Keys for CoCo Vandeweghe. Keys faced off against Pauline Parmentier, who--on the first day of competition--gave Stephens all kinds of trouble, despite losing to her. Parmentier got off to a quick lead against Keys, but Keys caught up and brought the first set to a tiebreak, which she won. The second set was just as tight as the first, but Keys prevailed in that one, too--6-4.

The final will be held in Prague. The Czech Republic has won the Fed Cup champion five times in the past seven years.

Here are the results of World Group Play-offs:

Belarus def. Slovakia, 3-2
Romania def. Switzerland, 3-1
Australia def. Netherlands, 4-1
Belgium def. Italy, 4-0

Note that former Fed Cup giant Italy could not get back into the World Group. Sara Errani remains as the only member of the Fed Cup stalwarts, and she lost both of her singles rubbers.

Here are the World Group II results:

Latvia def. Russia, 3-2
Canada def. Ukraine, 3-2
Spain def. Paraguay, 3-1
Japan def. Great Britain, 3-2

Latvia is, of course, another former Fed Cup giant. Unlike Italy, however, the Russian team included two rather competitive players, Ekaterina Makarova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. But that wasn't enough for Latvian team members Alona Ostapenko and Anastasija Sevastova (though Sevastova did lose to Pavlyuchenkova in three sets).

The Canada--Ukraine competition went on for hours today. Starting the day at 1-1, Canada went to 2-1 when Genie Bouchard won her rubber (she also won her Saturday rubber). In the fourth rubber, Gabriela Dabrowski took the first set, but Kateryna Bondarenko came back to take the final two, forcing a deciding doubles rubber. That also went to three sets, with Canada winning 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Japan's victory over Great Britain was brought about by, of course, Naomi Osaka, though the young Japanese star lost in straight sets to Jo Konta.

I watched this semifinal like I watched the first tie, on ITF TV via Apple TV, and it was a technical disaster. For about one set, everything would be okay, and then the picture would pixilate like crazy, there would be constant popping noises, and--in one case--the sound lagged quite far behind the picture. ITF TV is now forcing us to buy a pass for both WTA and ATP (like Tennis TV did after the first season). I have no need to watch Davis Cup on ITF TV, but I had to pay for it. To add insult to injury, I couldn't even watch what I did pay to see.