**UPDATES** as marked
I hope everyone caught some Fed Cup action this weekend. Here in the States, we’re watching the USA vs. Czech Republic semifinal, which is tied 1-1 as of Saturday. The big-hitting Czech, Petra Kvitova (ranked 48), beat world No. 39 Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the well-fought first rubber. It was then up to the 114-ranked Alexa Glatch, who was making her Fed Cup debut, to beat Iveta Benesova, ranked No. 29 in the world and No. 1 in the Czech Republic. The young American met the challenge with ease, winning the match: 6-1. 6-2.
In the other semi, Italy blazed through the Russian team, taking a 2-0 advantage into Sunday against the two-time defending champs. Flavia Pennetta destroyed Anna Chakvetadze, 6-4, 6-0, in the first rubber, but the big surprise came when 28-year-old Francesca Schiavone (ranked No. 44) came back from a set down to beat world No. 9, Svetlana Kuznetsova: 1-6 6-2 6-3.
Here’s a report from Italy (via FedCup.com): “As every single man, woman and child stood to applaud Schiavone off the court after her three-set win over Svetlana Kuznetsova in the second rubber, the Italian captain Corrado Barazzutti offered this thought – ‘Francesca is a player made for this competition.’“
This is what makes Fed Cup so much fun: young nobodies and grizzled veterans defying expectations and leading their teams to glory. Match-ups that normally wouldn’t make it onto my DVR become top attractions. So why is this competition often overlooked instead of celebrated?
More Fed Cup fodder:
Petra Kvitova** could be in the top 20 by the end of the season. This girl has effortless power and nerves of steel.**UPDATE – Uh, hold that thought!
Bethanie Mattek-Sands**: I love this woman. Love her attitude, love her funny outfits, love the Elvis-like curl of her upper lip. She played a good match against Kvitova on Saturday, who was obviously in the zone. She should do better against Benesova tomorrow. **UPDATE – Oh, snap! Czech captain, Petr Pala subbed Lucie Safarova in at the last minute and she shocked Mattek-Sands, 6-3, 6-1 in the third rubber. Brilliant move.
U.S. tennis isn’t doomed: 19 year-old Alexa Glatch** is ranked 114 in the world, playing her first ever Fed Cup match, and beats a top 30 opponent with a home-court advantage. Oh, and she’s got a great serve and some killer slice. Clay is her favorite surface but her game works well on a fast hard court. Another unassuming teenager, Melanie Oudin, was Team USA’s secret weapon in February’s quarterfinals. 14 year-old Madison Keys (a future Fed Cupper) won her first WTA-level match in Florida a couple weeks ago. It’s time to stop the hand-wringing!**UPDATE – AND Alexa Glatch took the must-win fourth rubber over a faltering Petra Kvitova on Sunday, taking the tie to a live fifth rubber! Talk about a dazzling debut. (And how great to have such a defining moment, already, in such a young career – she can always be proud of this!)
Tongue twister alert: I’d rather hear the voices of a thousand Czechs cheering than the drone of a few dozen kazoos and a pick-up kettle drum band. Annoying noise makers should be banned from the stadium! Bah, humbug.
From Team USA’s head cheerleader and No. 1 doubles player, Liezel Huber: “In between matches (on Saturday) I had to do Doping Control I have never been to the bathroom that quickly in my life, ’cause I think I wanted to get back to the action on court!” (click here for Liezel’s Fed Cup blog)
Does anyone know why Kuznetsova reportedly didn’t shake hands with Schiavone after Saturday’s match? I mean, besides the losing part. . .
I despise Fed Cup’s fuchsia and white color scheme. It’s like, “Yeah I get it, Fed Cup is for girls.” That doesn’t mean the court has to look like a tampon box.
Smashed on highballs: Jack Daniels is a sponsor of Fed Cup on Tennis Channel.
**UPDATE All credit to Mary Joe Fernandez for getting the most out of her underdog team.
Why do the teams wear matching outfits to dinner, but not on the court? Forget the whiskey, Fed Cup should be sponsored by Dress Barn: