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Germany feels as outsiders who yet have chances to win the Fed Cup

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TENNIS FED CUP – Alongside Stefanie Graf, Barbara Rittner and Anke Huber were members of the last German team to claim the Fed Cup 22 years ago. Rittner and Huber talked about their memories of 1992 and the chances for 2014 when interviewed recently.

 

Alongside Stefanie Graf, Barbara Rittner and Anke Huber were members of the last German team to claim the Fed Cup 22 years ago. Anke Huber is now the Operating Tournament Director of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart and Barbara Rittner is the captain of Porsche Team Germany which will be attempting to win back the Fed Cup title for Germany in the final against the Czech Republic in Prague Mid-November 2014. They jointly talked about their memories of 1992 and the chances for 2014 when interviewed recently.

What memories do you have of winning the Fed Cup in 1992 when you, together with Steffi Graf, beat Spain in Frankfurt?

Barbara Rittner: “Winning the title at home in a team with Steffi and Anke was something special but I do feel we could have celebrated a bit more intensively. What do you think Anke?”

Anke Huber: “Partywise, we weren’t quite in the same class as your girls. But I was only 17 at the time. For me it was a big experience to play for Germany and to win the title.”

Back then, people thought you only had an outside chance of winning. How do you see the chances for Prague?

Barbara Rittner: “I see us as being the outsiders again. The Czech team is incredibly strong and play consistently at the highest level. They recently won the Fed Cup in 2011 and 2012. It says a lot about the strength of their team.”

Anke Huber: “I also feel the hosts will go into the finals as favourites. But I think our girls definitely have the games to match the Czechs and in the end it will depend on who plays better on the day. The question is also how will the Czechs deal with the pressure of playing in front of their home crowd? Playing at home is not always automatically an advantage.”

Were you so closely knit in 1992 as the current Porsche Team Germany?

Anke Huber: “In our day, it wasn’t possible to develop such a team spirit. Back then the Fed Cup was played over a week at a single venue. It meant the team was only together for two weeks in a year – one week preparing and one week competing.”

Barbara Rittner: “Today’s players have known each since their juniors days and have spent far more time together at training camps and tournaments than we ever did. Anke and I grew up together. Steffi on the other hand was a little older than us, so we didn’t do things together as juniors.”

Anke Huber: “On top of that Steffi mainly practiced alone and was also more of a loner.”

Barbara Rittner: “…who was also a fantastic team member.”

Anke Huber: “Definitely. When we were on court, we always did things as a team and cheered and supported each other.”

Was the importance of women’s tennis and the Fed Cup back then as big as it is these days?

Barbara Rittner: “They were different times. As a result of the many successes of Steffi and Anke and naturally Boris Becker and Michael Stich, tennis was on everybody’s lips. Tennis was televised almost every day on TV. It meant that the importance of the Fed Cup was also automatically high even though we didn’t get quite the attention as they do today.”

Anke Huber: “The Fed Cup has become far more important since then and is in the limelight far more. I have the impression that the players’ attitudes have changed over the years. It’s obvious for all to see that they love representing their country as a team and being successful together. Porsche Team Germany is the best example of that.”

How important was the Fed Cup win in 1992 for you as players? Barbara, how are you feeling 22 years later with the chance of capturing the title as the team captain?

Anke Huber: “As I said previously, I was 17 at the time and probably wasn’t really able to fully realize the importance of the success. Looking back, I have to say that the Fed Cup title was something quite special and an important milestone in my career.”

Barbara Rittner: “The title was very important for my career at the time and not just when looking back. After all I was a member of the world’s best tennis team – it was something quite special. That I now have the chance to win the title as the team captain makes me proud and shows me that my work is bearing fruit.”

There are only a few days to go to the final. To what extent is the tension increasing?

Barbara Rittner: “I’m slowly getting nervous. When falling asleep at night, I daren’t think about the final too much otherwise I’d get too uptight which wouldn’t be good. But the great anticipation ahead of the final outweighs everything.”

Which strengths of the Porsche Team Germany players are you putting your faith in most of all against the strong Czechs?”

Barbara Rittner: “I’m putting my faith above all in the performances that my players have already served up in the Fed Cup. And naturally our team spirit. It can move mountains.”

Anke Huber: “I believe we can win. One shouldn’t however forget that getting to the final alone is a great success for Porsche Team Germany in itself. And the girls can crown it all by winning the title. The interest in German women’s tennis hasn’t been as big as it is now for a long time. A win in Prague would further increase people’s awareness and would also be a big incentive and enormous motivation for younger players like those in the Porsche Talent Team Germany.”

What does Porsche Team Germany have to do to win the title?

Anke Huber: “On the day everything has to be perfect. No matter what happened before – the players have to switch on and be prepared for everything. Only then can they be successful against such strong opponents.”

Barbara Rittner: “The players have to feel they’re well-prepared, also in respect of the electric atmosphere in the hall, so that they to call upon their best tennis. We have to do everything to enjoy the weekend despite the stress and tension. Then everything is possible.”

Fed Cup

Australia Ousts Great Britain In Thriller To Reach BJK Cup Final

The host nation narrowly missed out on a place in the final but they have plenty of positives to motivate them for the future.

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The British Billie Jean King Cup team (image via LTA Twitter)

Australia has denied Great Britain an opportunity to play in their first team final since 1981 after prevailing 2-1 in an epic tussle at the Billie Jean King Cup in Glasgow. 

 

The gripping tie was level at 1-1 after each team won one of the singles matches, paving the way for a winner-takes-all doubles encounter. The British team featured Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls who were both making their debut in the competition this week. Their opponents were former Grand Slam winner Sam Stosur and world No.10 doubles player Storm Sanders.

Despite the gap in experience between the two pairings, there was almost nothing to distinguish between the two throughout the majority of their encounter which lasted more than two hours. Nevertheless, the Australian duo held their nerve to seal a 7-6(1), 6-7(5), 10-6, victory to send them into the final. 

“That was amazing. it could have gone either way and credit to the GB girls they played really well. They will be here again for sure.” Sanders said during her on-court interview. 

It is only the second time in the past 30 years that Australia has progressed to the final after 2019. Before playing Great Britain, they also defeated Belgium and Slovakia in the group stages. 

“A real credit to the four players out on court that was pretty inspirational, so I hope it inspires a lot more of you out there to play doubles. It was really such a high level you couldn’t pick it in the end.” Australian captain Alicia Molik commented on the doubles match. 

Earlier in the day, Australia got off to the perfect start with Sanders edging her way past Heather Watson 6-4, 7-6(3). However, the host nation battled back with an impressive performance from Harriet Dart who defeated Ajla Tomljanović 7-6(3), 6-2. A player who has reached the quarter-finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open this year. 

“The Billie Jean King Cup just brings the best out of me. I love playing in front of a home crowd, and I feel like I have really been feeding off my teammates and everyone here. It just makes me really want to do really well.” Said Dart. 

The performances from the underdogs provide Britain with plenty of hope for the future. The nation lost in qualifying earlier this year but managed to enter the finals via wildcard due to the competition being held in their country. 

“I’m just gutted for everyone right now but also I think we have to try and keep things in perspective,” British captain Keothavong told reporters. 
“What a fantastic week it has been for the team. I don’t know how many people gave us much of a chance really to even come through the group stages.’
“It really is a fantastic achievement to reach the semifinals but we felt we could have gone further. That’s why it hurts so much.
“It’s going to hurt the players for a while but they’ll (the team) get over it. They can still hold their heads high because they have shown what they are capable of under a huge amount of pressure to deliver, and in the end, it came down to a few points.”

Australia will next play either Switzerland or the Czech Republic in the final. They are seeking to win the trophy for the first time since 1974.

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Fed Cup

Great Britain Looking To Overcome ‘Experienced’ Australia In Billie Jean King Cup Semis

Great Britain will play their first Billie Jean King Cup semi-final for 40 years when they play Australia on Saturday.

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Great Britain plays their first Billie Jean King Cup semi-final for 40 years when they face Australia in the last four in Glasgow on Saturday.

 

It was a heroic effort from Great Britain on Thursday as they battled past Spain to reach the last four at the Billie Jean King Cup.

Having lost to Kazakhstan 2-1 in their opening match, they knew they had to beat Spain 3-0 to qualify for the semi-finals.

But step up Heather Watson, Harriet Dart and the doubles team of Olivia Nicholls and Alicia Barnett, as they pulled off a massive upset to seal a place in the semi-finals.

Speaking after the win against Spain, Great Britain’s captain Anne Keothavong praised the doubles pairing of Barnett and Nicholls, “It’s down to their doubles win on Tuesday night (in a 2-1 loss to Kazakhstan) that kept us in this competition,” Keothavong was quoted by tennis365 as saying.

“I think if you watch that match, it’s hard not to feel the joy and the camaraderie between the players. It really truly was infectious.

“I think also Liv and Liss bring something different to the team which we haven’t had before. It’s not just the fact that they specialise in doubles but they have had a life outside of tennis.”

Now Great Britain look to repeat the success of the 1981 side as they look to beat Australia and reach the final.

It will be no easy task though with an in-form Ajla Tomljanovic, Ellen Perez, Storm Sanders and Sam Stosur standing in their way.

Keothavong admitted it will be a tough match but also noted that momentum is on Great Britain’s side, “They are a tough team,” Britain’s captain admitted.

“They are a team with plenty of experience in this competition. But look, we have to believe, and we’re on a high at the moment.”

That semi-final is the first semi-final before reigning champions Switzerland face the Czech Republic at 16:00 GMT.

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Fed Cup

‘Sky’s The Limit’ – Great Britain Storm Into First Billie Jean King Cup Semis In Over 40 Years

The underdogs have exceeded expectations in front of their home fans in Glasgow.

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The British Billie Jean King Cup team (image via https://twitter.com/the_LTA)

British captain Anne Keothavong said it was ‘wonderful’ to watch her team pull off a sensational 3-0 win over Spain at the Billie Jean King Cup on Thursday. 

 

After suffering a loss to Kazakhstan earlier in the week, team GB entered their latest tie knowing they have to win all three of their matches without dropping a set if they want to progress to the semi-final stages. Despite having the odds against them, they managed to surge to victory. 

Heather Wason thrashed Nuria Perrizas 6-0, 6-2, who is ranked 50 places higher than her in the WTA standings. Then Harriet Dart stunned world No.13 Paula Badosa 6-3, 6-4, in just over 90 minutes. To put that victory into perspective, Dart has only beaten one top-10 player in her career, which was Daria Kasatkina at the US Open earlier this year. 

“I’m just so proud to represent my country, to be able to also perform on home soil in front of a home crowd. Doesn’t get more special than that,” Hart told reporters afterwards.
“My goal was to make it as tough as possible out there for her, and I felt like I executed my game plan really well. I knew that all the pressure was on them because on paper she’s meant to beat me easily.”

On the verge of booking a place in the semi-finals, the tie came down to the doubles match. Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls only found out they were playing in the competition for the first time in their careers last week. Despite their inexperience, the duo managed to pull off a shock 7-6(5), 6-2, win over Aliona Bolsova and Rebeka Masarova. 

“The sky’s the limit after what we have shown so far,” said Nicholls. “We were definitely underdogs in this group. No doubt about it.
“Both the singles girls, Harriet and Heather, getting unbelievable wins. We have shown what we can do on the doubles court at well. I don’t see there are any players or teams here that we shouldn’t walk onto court thinking we can’t beat. We will just keep going.”

The triumph makes it the first time Britain has reached the semi-finals since 1981 when the event was called the Federation Cup. Britain, who are currently ranked 17th in the team standings, only managed to qualify for the finals due to being the host nation. 

“It sure is (historic) – this is something really special,” said Keothavong.
“I’m just so proud of this team. Every single player on the team has done us proud, the team spirit has been high, and I just want to thank everyone who has come to support the British team here. It really makes the difference and we really appreciate the support.
“We want to put women’s sport and tennis on the map and the support you give us is helping us to create amazing memories.”

Britain will next take on Australia who coincidentally was the country they faced the last time they reached the semi-finals more than 40 years ago. Australia, which is headed by top-40 player Ajla Tomljanović,  has topped their group following a 3-0 win over Belgium and a 2-1 win over Slovakia. 

“We are not here to participate – we are here to try and win this event,” said team member Storm Saunders.
“Everyone on the team, it’s a priority for us to win. So, semi-finals is, yeah, a good step but we’re here for more.”

Britain is seeking to win the title for the first time in history and Australia is aiming to claim their first since 1974. 

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