Congratulations to all the women who sacrificed their time to play for their country. For those who succeeded there is joy. For those who lost there are wounds to lick and strategies to plan.
History was made along the way. Everyone knows there is run of the mill drama and then there is DRAMA. Some of the teams had the standard run of the mill variety while others seemed to raise the drama level to a new level
Israel now moves into the World Group for 2008 thanks in no small part to singles play by Shahar Peer. Even as their achievement is celebrated the question of where the ties will be played is one of the things that has to be taken into account.
The Italian and French Teams managed to keep their drama on the tennis court. There was some drama from the French team about why Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli was not on the team but that was the only pre rubber drama from the French.
The Italians however came to take names, and take names they did.
Francesca Schiavone who has had a disappointing year playing singles was the heroine today winning not only in singles but in doubles. In singles she beat a tough Tatiana Golovin of France after Amelie Mauresmo of France redeemed herself by winning her singles match. Not one to rest on her laurels Francesca then won a doubles match with Roberta Vinci.
Then there was the Serbian team. Beset by injury to Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic finally showing signs that even her formidable batteries need to be recharged the team that looked destined to move up lost to Slovakia led by Daniela Hantuchova. When one Serbian player fainted going on court some Serbian fans stage whispered if something other worldly had been done to the Serbian team. Slovakia won the tie 4-1.
The Peoples Republic of China meanwhile made it into the World Group, something the Chinese tennis authorities should be very happy about. Tian Tian Sun shouldered the load for the P.R. of China leading her team to a 4-1 rout of Belgium. With
Kim Clijsters retirement and Justine Henin not playing despite their best efforts the Belgian women fell to the Chinese. Does it mean anything that this was done without the most recognized of the Chinese women, Na Li? Who knows right now. Maybe this tie had the least amount of drama.
Both Germany and Spain won their ties by scores of 3-2 and 4-1 respectively. Spain stays in the World Group. Germany will be there as well.
The results for the rest of the World Group II playoff teams are as follows:
Australia v Ukraine 1 - 4
Argentina v Canada 4 - 1
Croatia v Chinese Taipei 3 - 2
(Slovakia vs Serbia is detailed above)
World Group Playoff Results
Austria v Israel 1 - 4
Belgium v China, P.R. 1 - 4
Japan v Germany 2 - 3
Spain v Czech Republic 4 - 1
The major drama took place in the bucolic setting of Stowe, Vermont where the United States was to play Russia for a berth in the Finals.
The drama started when it became public that Shamil Tarpishev, legendary Russian coach had not been issued a visa. This came hard on the heels of Maria Sharapova confirming that she would not play for Russia due to a persistent shoulder injury. Svetlana Kuznetsova, after medical tests, was forced to withdraw. If Tarpishev made it to the States he'd have a patchwork team that would need his closest attention. Of course there were those whispers that Russia would forfeit if Tarpishev wasn't able to get his visa.
On top of this the Russian Tennis Federation was busy ripping Maria Sharapova a new one saying that her American handlers didn't want her to play for Russia and that all she wanted was to be able to play for Russia in the 2008 Olympics. After that Maria made a statement to the effect that
she wanted nothing more than to beat the Americans on their home soil. As you would suspect that only added fuel to the fire. Needless to say Mr. Tarpishev flew into the United States at the last minute and was greeted by his jubilant Fed Cup team.
Not to be left out the United States had it's share of drama. Meilen Tu complained that the Fed Cup people never once contacted her to see if she wanted to play. When to no one's surprise Serena Williams withdrew with injury Meilen got her chance. It would also come as no surprise that all eyes then turned to Venus Williams who was in Stowe after her Wimbledon triumph. Venus won what I'll just say was a thrilling three setter over Nadia Petrova of Russia and another match over Russian Anna Chakevetadze. Unfortunately Meilen didn't win a rubber and neither did Vania King. Tied at two all it came down to the doubles and Venus took the court with Lisa Raymond. Doubles is all about communication and trust between partners. It also helps if both parties are relatively fresh. Russia edge the United States by 3-2.
Italy will play Russia for the Fed Cup in Russia on September 15. There is already talk about whether Sharapova will be on the team or if the four women who got their country to the big dance, Nadia Petrova, Anna Chakvetadze, Elena Vesnina and Alla Kudryavtseva will be allowed to finish what they started.