Gotta Love Fed Cup

Petra Kvitova earned the clinching point for defending Fed Cup champion Czech Republic against Germany.Take a look at Petra Kvitova here. There’s fire in her eyes, passion in her stance and pride all over to be wearing the flag of her native Czech Republic.

That could have been one of many images from the WTA’s galleries displaying such hunger and desire to succeed at last week’s Fed Cup. The reason I mention it is due to a recent encounter on our university’s student radio sports show. They drafted me in as a tennis ‘expert’ to discuss the ATP World Tour Finals and the topic of Davis Cup came up.

Surprisingly I heard some resentment for what many believed was a format designed to make an individual sport a team game. It could have been hot air in order to provoke debate but it will be hugely disappointing if the majority of tennis fans dislike the Davis Cup as that’s considered in a far higher regard than it’s female equivalent the Fed Cup.

At the start of the year when sporting calendars are out in every newspaper, the Fed Cup final didn’t even get a look-in. Perhaps us Brits aren’t used to success and seeing us fail in another form of tennis is too much to take but our new-look team gives me reason to believe they’ll turn things around.

Captain Judy Murray (aka Judmoo) has so far guided a strong field of female players both experienced and youthful to the play-offs of World Group II. Although Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong don’t have too long left in their careers they could leave the British team in a very strong position for Heather Watson and Laura Robson.

The British Fed Cup team featured Anne Keothavong, Laura Robson, Elena Baltacha and Heather Watson.

It’s not just my own country that gets me interested in the Fed Cup though. The idea of a World Cup-style tennis tournament every year is incredibly exciting, particularly as the current teams are only going to get better.

Russia is always churning out top professionals and choosing just five players is the toughest decision of all. Germany’s strength in depth is also impressive whilst the camaraderie in the camp shown across the board makes it a pleasure to watch.

The trouble is, players often see the Fed Cup as less important. The Williams sisters have only returned to play for the USA this year in order to qualify for the Olympic Games. For the other three years there’s a significant lack of participation from the world’s elite players, which I’m more disappointed than angry about. It’s the same with the Hopman Cup which I also believe is a great concept.

Look at these photos and tell me it’s not worth participating in. If everyone gave as much as Kvitova up top then we could have a tournament which is the highlight of any tennis season.,,12781~10453023,00.jpg

Post-Wimbledon Blues

In my early youth I believed June was the worst month of the year for sport; then I became a tennis fan and quickly realised July tops it by a long stretch.

Summer sports like golf and cricket don’t fill the void left by the football season’s conclusion and, besides the first week where the Wimbledon schedule spills over, tennis doesn’t either.

All the top players disappear for two to three weeks once Sue Barker’s wrapped up the closing ceremony on Centre Court and, due to my UK residency, so does the coverage of the sport.

Luckily I have a companion who bets and he’s always looking for a tennis punt. He’s been keeping me updated on which players have been making the most of this July tennis drought.

Here’s a summary:

The next big buzz after Wimbledon came from the Davis Cup. Bernard Tomic and Kei Nishikori were in action for Australia and Japan with both helping their respective countries to victory. Japan will next face India with the Aussies taking on Switzerland when the World Group Play-offs commence in September.

Ksenia Pervak continued her recent good form by reaching the semi-finals of the Gastein Ladies and losing out to third in the world Vera Zvonareva at the Baku Cup. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova lost in the quarter-finals of the latter event.

In a tournament where John Isner was the top seed, Grigor Dimitrov couldn’t make the most of another grass court event after his second round exit to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Wimbledon. He lost to 18-year-old American Denis Kudla in Newport, Rhode Island before travelling to Atlanta and falling to Rajeev Ram in the first round despite being seeded fifth. In the same tournament, Ryan Harrison reached the semi-finals before losing to eventual champion Mardy Fish. Harrison is also well inside the top 100 and improving on his highest ever ranking position all the time while Dimitrov is still at a respectable #57.

Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki continued her remarkable comeback by reaching the same stage of the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, joining 22-year-old Dominika Cibulkova. The German was cast aside by an imperious Serena Williams whilst the Slovakian had to retire before her match with Marion Bartoli but her ranking has improved to world number 16.

Youngsters Tamira Paszek and Irina Falconi both made the semi-finals of the WTA International tournament the Citi Open. Austrian 20-year-old Paszek made the quarter-finals of Wimbledon and has seen her world ranking increase to number 36 in the world while American 21-year-old Falconi is back in the top 100. Bojana Jovanovski made the quarter-finals and Eugenie Bouchard reached the second round as a wildcard.

As the hard court events got underway Ernests Gulbis produced a stunning turnaround from recent form. The 22-year-old ended a five-match slump to win his first round match at the Los Angeles Tennis Open against fifth seed Xavier Malisse. From then on the Latvian seemed re-born, smashing former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro 6-2, 6-4 en route to winning the tournament outright 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 against top 10 player Mardy Fish in the final. He’s now rose 29 places to number 55 in the world.

Ernests Gulbis

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