There are those who have been railing against Fed Cup and Davis Cup. It's inconvenient. Players have to break their routines. It needs revamping for the modern tennis world. All of this can be argued yea or nay and has been. Change would take a year or two to implement and while a lot of lip service has been given to "change" but as with anything else in tennis movement will come at a glacial pace.
That said I think it's valid to say that in 2016 Fed Cup was irrevocably, perhaps fatally broken. It was broken by the antics - there is no other way to describe what happened - of one country, one that has a great history in women's tennis and now seems to have become something else, something not good for the sport of tennis specifically women's tennis.
It started in Melbourne Australia when Maria Sharapova announced that she would travel to the venue but had no intention of playing due to her latest mystery injury. The head of the Russian Tennis Federation returned fire saying if you don't play you don't go to the Olympics. Standoff? A duel at noon seemed to be imminent when Sharapova was penciled in to play doubles with up and comer Daria Kasatkina. With a lineup that included players ranked in the top 30 - Ekaterina Makarova and Svetlana Kuznetsova - it was a given that the Russians would romp against the lowly Netherlands in straight rubbers. A funny thing happened on the way to that romp though. Both Makarova and Kuznetsova lost, Sveta after playing a grueling four hour match. Speculation ran wild. Who would Anastasia Myskina play in order to give her country a chance to win the tie? In the midst of the speculation talk was that Sharapova had not brought any racquets with her and so she could not play. Add to that her mouthpiece/agent Max Eisenbud went on one of his anti Serena Williams rants and included the news that his client would no longer play Fed Cup, that this was her last appearance. My reaction was a huge so what? His client knows that she can't beat Serena and was almost in tears during their match in Melbourne. 2020 is four years away. His client will be 29 this year and 33 in 2020. With all of her ailments it's hard to see her playing much longer. (Of course if Serena retires this year we'll see a rejuvenated, injury free Sharapova working hard to try and win more titles and Slams but I digress).
Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to find that Myskina played Svetlana Kuznetsova? I was not surprised that she lost. I was also convinced by that move that Myskina had no intention of winning the tie, that in the end Sharapova got her demands met - she only had to be present to make the Olympics - and that Russia thought so little of Fed Cup that it seems to have deliberately tanked a tie.
Kiki Bertens via FedCup
I'm not angry. I'm disappointed. I don't know much about what goes on in Russian tennis. I only know what I read by those who read and speak the language and are better equipped to comment on what goes on in that country. The women from The Netherlands played their hearts out and their joy comes through in the still photographs I've seen. What a shame that the team they played rolled over and played dead for all intents and purposes. The Netherlands team will face France next. I wish them well.
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