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.”
Leylah Fernandez wins Billie Jean King Heart Award
The Canadian was recognized by the fans for her part in Canada beating Serbia in the play-off tie last month.
Leylah Fernandez has been named the winner of the Billie Jean King Heart award voted on by the fans of the game. She played an integral part in Canada beating Serbia 4-0 in the playoff tie last month.
18-year-old Fernandez was involved in a poll with Elina Svitolina, Katie Boulter and Magdalena French. The award comes with $3000 which she donated to her favourite charity Table de Concertation en Securite Alimentaire de Villeray in Montreal.
” I was surprised, there were so many great players who were nominated and showed a lot of heart during the competition so I didn’t expect much from my part but I’m happy the fans voted and that I was given this opportunity to show what we are made of so I am excited,” said Fernandez.
ITF president David Haggerty commented on her award saying “Congratulations to Leylah Fernandez for her great performance at the Billie Jean King playoff in April and for being voted the recipient of the Bille Jean King Heart Award. It’s extra special to be voted by the fans and recognized for showing great courage and commitment to your team”.
Heidi El Tabakh the Billie Jean King Cup captain for Canada also reacted to Fernandez winning the award.
” I am so happy and extremely proud of Leylah (Fernandez) for winning the Billie Jean King Heart Award. It was well deserved following a spectacular performance in Serbia which she worked so hard for,” she said.
“Leylah is a fighter on the court, she always represents Canada with pride and is an incredible teammate for her fellow teammates. She is very worthy of this award”.
This is the 12th year the award has been given and it recognizes players who have represented their country with distinction, shown exceptional courage on the court, and demonstrated outstanding commitment to the team during the Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas.
So far the the award winners have donated over $200,000 to charities across the world.
Tennis Stars Voice Concerns Over Staging Tokyo Olympics
After being delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, top players such as Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori still have reservations.
Japan’s top male tennis player Kei Nishikori has questioned how much preparation the IOC and local officials in his home country has prepared for a ‘worst-case’ scenario of hosting the Olympics.
The four-year event has already been postponed by 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and some have called for the sporting extravaganza to be scrapped. Recently governors of nine Japanese prefectures said there should be an option to suspend or even cancel the Olympics altogether if cases in the region can’t be kept under control. Three of those governors are in charge of cities set to stage Olympic events.
Weighing in on the debate, former US Open finalist Nishikori raises doubts over how organisers plan to hold a safe event given the high number of athletes that will be present, which is an estimated 11,000. Japan has already said that overseas fans are banned and international athletes will not be able to bring relatives with them to minimise the risk.
“I don’t know what they are thinking, and I don’t know how much they are thinking about how they are going to make a bubble, because this is not 100 people like these tournaments,” Nishikori said after his first-round match at the Italian Open on Monday.
“It’s 10,000 people in the village. So I don’t think it’s easy, especially what’s happening right now in Japan. It’s not doing good. Well, not even (just) Japan. You have to think all over the world right now.”
The world No.45 expresses a view similar to the of four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka who said earlier this week that she was ‘not sure’ if the event should go ahead due to the current case numbers.
“I’m an athlete, and of course my immediate thought is that I want to play in the Olympics,” she said.
“But as a human, I would say we’re in a pandemic, and if people aren’t healthy, and if they’re not feeling safe, then it’s definitely a really big cause for concern.”
In the latest figures published by health officials, Tokyo reported 925 news cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday which is an increase of almost 400 compared to the previous day. Although Monday figures are usually low due to the closure of testing centres over the weekend. Tuesday’s number is higher compared to this time last week (609 cases) and two weeks ago (828 cases).
Besides the COVID-19 concerns, the prospect of having to go to the Games without a member of family could result in the absence of four-time gold medallist Serena Williams. The former world No.1 says she is undecided on playing the event and hasn’t been separated from her three-year-old daughter for more than 24 hours before.
“I haven’t spent 24 hours without her, so that kind of answers the question itself,” said Williams.
“I haven’t really thought much about Tokyo, because it was supposed to be last year and now it’s this year, and then there is this pandemic and there is so much to think about.
“Then there are the Grand Slams. It’s just a lot. So I have really been taking it one day at a time to a fault, and I definitely need to figure out my next moves.”
Besides athlete concerns, Olympic organisers are also facing falling public support. A recent poll conducted by newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun found that nearly 60% of respondents wanted the Games to be cancelled. Furthermore TBS news reported 65% of people surveyed in another poll wanted the event either cancelled or suspended again, with 37% supporting the cancellation and 28% in favour of suspension.
The Olympic tennis event is set to start on July 24th.
Top Tennis Tournaments Among 97 Events UK Sport Hopes To Host Over The Next Decade
A plan for the ‘greatest decade of extraordinary sporting moments’ in the UK has been published and tennis is among the sports officials are interested in.
The government agency responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic sport within Great Britain has said they could submit an application to host two team tennis events over the next decade.
UK Sport has labelled both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup Finals as an ‘opportunity’ for them to host in their 10-year strategic plan which will last until 2021. Overall the country is looking at the possibility of staging 97 events across 44 sports over the next 10 years. Those behind the plan believe such a move could generate a total of £7 billion for the UK economy. A live feasibility study is already underway for bidding to host the 2030 football World Cup, 2026 European Athletic Championships and more.
“Together we have achieved so much in Olympic and Paralympic sport. Nevertheless, we are very aware there is no room for complacency and that we must build on our success to create the next exciting phase of high-performance sport,” UK Sport chair Dame Katherine Grainger said in a statement.
“One where we work even more collaboratively and inclusively to keep winning and win well, in ways that will inspire more people and have a broader impact on our society.
“Achieving on the world stage will still sit firmly at the heart of what we do. But we should not underestimate the powerful platform that provides us with, and it is our shared responsibility to better harness this for positive social change.”
When it comes to both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup, UK Sport has categorized them as a mega event. Meaning they are ‘seen as the pinnacle of their sport at World level and which have significant staging costs, attract more than 100,000 live spectators, entail considerable delivery complexity and require extensive public funding and guarantee commitments.’ At present they have been labelled as an ‘opportunity’ by the agency. Meaning that no decision to bid to host them has been made yet but remains a good possibility.
The government made no reference to what venues could be used, especially regarding the tennis events which will require more than one court due to the change of the tournament in recent years. The finals of the team events now last for a week or so and are done initially in a group format before turning into a knock-out stage.
This year’s Davis Cup finals are taking place across three European cities. However, the women’s equivalent remains in doubt after the ITF ended their contract with the Hungarian Tennis Association who were meant to be holding the event. Hungary recently sent a letter saying it was no longer feasible to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UK is best known for its staging of the prestigious Wimbledon Championships, as well as other grass-court events. Furthermore, it also experienced great success in hosting the ATP Finals between 2009-2020 which attracted more than 2.8 million visitors during that period.
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