Italy beat the USA 4-0 in the Fed Cup final this weekend on the red clay of Reggio Calabria, Italy. Flavia Pennetta beat the overmatched Alexa Glatch and Francesca Schiavone took down Melanie Oudin on Saturday, and Flavia clinched the victory against Oudin in Sunday’s first match. With the tie decided, the fourth singles rubber was skipped, leaving Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani to underline Italy’s dominance with a 4-6, 6-3, 11-9 win over No. 1 doubles player Liezel Huber and her partner Vania King.
It was a bittersweet weekend for Team USA – they made it to the finals as underdogs but were hoping to become the favorites (or at least in with a chance) with one or both of the Williams sisters playing in Italy. Venus and Serena finally declined to play team saviors, leaving Oudin and Glatch, with respective rankings of No. 49 and No. 132 in the world, to be the team No. 1 and No. 2. They’ve overachieved before, but pitting the two youngsters on the red mud against experienced, top 20 players like Schiavone and Pennetta was like sending lambs to the slaughter (and then to the oven to be roasted with rosemary and garlic. Yum.)
Oudin was in tears after losing to Pennetta 5-7, 2-6 on Sunday. But she says she’s still looking forward to next time: “Someday, when I’m in the Fed Cup final again, hopefully I’ll be able to pull on the win.”
REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito (ITALY SPORT TENNIS) via Daylife
Team USA Captain, Mary Joe Fernandez, put it this way: “The Italian team was the better team, they really played well and they deserved to win.”
Fernandez was Team USA’s biggest hero, rounding out a spectacular first season as the new leader with grace and good humor. She kept a blog this weekend at USTA.com, and here’s some of what she had to say about the result:
This year has been amazing. We started in Arizona with a pretty young team, including Melanie who I had just seen in Australia for the first time. Seeing her then and seeing her now I have seen such an amazing growth and transformation in every aspect of her game and she has matured so much.
Just for me to be back in a team atmosphere is fantastic. I have said so many times how my favorite memories are when I was on a team and Fed Cup was definitely one of the highlights and now to be in the mix from a different perspective has been great. It really is a dream come true. And the team has been fantastic. The girls fought so hard in every single tie. In each tie we were down and out and came back and we were hoping to do the same today but the Italian team was the better team, they really played well and they deserved to win.
I am very proud of everyone this year from the players who were not here in Italy like Bethanie (Mattek-Sands), Jill (Craybas) and Julie (Ditty), who came through for us in the other ties to our team here today. It was just a really positive year
Fernandez was honored by the ITF this weekend, becoming the first American to win the Fed Cup Award of Excellence.
There was nothing bittersweet for the Italians, who celebrated their victory with pure joy – and the Black Eyed Peas and Pavarotti (via FedCup.com):
While the Italian team piled on court to celebrate with Pennetta to the soundtrack of Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling”, Italian tennis stalwarts Lea Pericoli and Nicola Pietrangeli were all smiles from the stands as the girls took the flag in a lap of honour underneath the presidential box, and the TV crews and their equipment scampered from the fountains of champagne.
Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci made the scoreline 4-0 by winning the doubles over Liezel Huber and Vania King, Vinci extending her perfect record in Fed Cup doubles to 14-0, and the stage was set for the trophy ceremony. The teams were led on court to the evocative “Chariots of Fire” and when Italy lifted their trophies in front of the standing crowd, they sang with gusto to their national anthem followed by Pavarotti’s “Nessun Dorma”.
Long-time Italian Team Captain Corrado Barazzutti, was thrilled: “This is something unbelievable. These girls write the history of Italian tennis, this is a great moment. For a country like Italy…we are not America…this is a dream come true.”
The Italian team thanked Captain Barazzutti by throwing him in the air:
And then they threw their trophies in the air:
Here are some more scenes of champagne spraying, flag waving and general Fed Cup joy, Italian style:
Schiavone photo: AP Photo/Adriana Sapone via Daylife
Who needs Carlos Moya, anyway, when all of Italy is in love with you?
Fed Cup starts all over again in just a few months, with the USA playing France in the first round.
For all things Fed Cup, check out the excellent FedCup website here.