Hurray, U.S.A.! The team of rookies and underdogs (with the exception of Liezel Huber, who is ranked No. 1 in dubs) beat Argentina today in the first round of Fed Cup World Group competition. The tie was extended to a live fifth rubber, after No. 147 ranked Melanie Oudin tied things 2-2 with a must-win three set victory over No. 132 Argentine Betina Jozami. Liezel Huber and Fed cup rookie Julie Ditty formed a canny pick-up doubles team and scored the crucial victory in straight sets over Dulko/Jozami.
The “Best Rookie Award” goes to Mary-Joe Fernandez, who made a strong debut as Team Captain. All the players deserve credit (each won a point for the team), but I think that their inspirational captain was the “intangible” that made the difference in the end. She encouraged the 17-year-old Oudin to come back from a set down in the fourth rubber. And she didn’t panic and replace the more experienced Craybas for Ditty in the penultimate doubles match. The pairing with Huber worked better than anyone expected.
Gisela Dulko, the No. 44 ranked Argentine, is my MVP. She played scary-good tennis in her singles matches. I’m tipping Dulko to make the quarters at Roland Garros.
Other World Group results:
- Russia def China 5-0
- Italy def France 5-0 (Forget Flavia’s finger, it’s the French who should be ashamed!)
- Czech Republic def Spain 4-1 (Carla lost her match – boo!)
World Group II results:
- Slovak Republic def Belgium 4-1
- Germany def. Switzerland 3-2
- Serbia def Japan 4-1
- Ukraine def Israel 3-2
Team U.S.A. will play the Czech Republic in the April semifinal.
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Image: Ron Angle