Fed Cup play-off: USA leads Australia 2-0 after day 1, thanks to a formidable Keys and a solid McHale - UBITENNIS
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Fed Cup

Fed Cup play-off: USA leads Australia 2-0 after day 1, thanks to a formidable Keys and a solid McHale



Keys displays a powerful and confident tennis to frustrate the maiden Fed Cup rubber  of Gavrilova, whereas McHale wins a dramatic rubber against Stosur


Fed Cup play-off, day 1: Australia USA 0-2

From Brisbane Robbie Cappuccio

Australian and USA Fed Cup teams at Pat Rafter Arena, Brisbane

Australian and USA Fed Cup teams at Pat Rafter Arena, Brisbane

For sure not the result people (OK at least I) were expecting at the end of day one in Brisbane, and USA one step from victory.
Sunny, humid and 25C in Brisbane today, worth a couple of hours of plane trip from a rainy Melbourne. Sunny, but the Pat Rafter Arena (crowded with kids) is actually permanently covered with a plexiglass roof and artificial lights are on; “It’s an indoor-outdoor clay court, more indoor than outdoor, but not as fast” says Madison Keys in the after match press conference. Yes, because for the event the Pat Rafter Arena has been resurfaced with clay to give Stosur (semi-finalist in 2012 and a finalist in 2010 at the French Open) and Gavrilova (quarterfinal in Rome last year) an edge. The odds were in Keys’ favour and she did deliver, displaying a great condition and an arm that is ultimate power, whereas Gavrilova was a little bit too tense in her maiden rubber wearing green-and-gold. The result of the second single though was surprising, with Christina McHale winning over Sam Stosur, after trailing 1 set down.


Madison Keys (USA) d. Daria Gavrilova (AUS)  6-4 6-2

The stats describe pretty well the match: 28 winners for Keys, 4 for Gavrilova. I could stop here, but the match has been a little bit more than that.

USA wins the toss and elects to receive. Both players are tense at the beginning, with Keys hitting her forehand a couple of meters long or in the net, whilst Gavrilova – at her maiden tie in Fed Cup – playing spider/windshield wiper, running from one side of the baseline to the other spinning her web often with lobs to deter Keys’ violent hitting. And here comes the notorious 7th game with Dasha facing two break points: she double faults (talking about butterflies …) and USA takes the lead and consolidates despite Keys having to save two break points herself. Keys alternates excellent moments where she takes control of the rally, especially with the inside-out forehand to a series of unforced errors, and I mean hitting the base of the net or going 2 meters long. Regardless of her unforced errors (which we must say are helped by Gavrilova’s intelligent strategy), her stroke  is more something like a surface to surface missile: the violence with which she hits the ball is intimidating, to say the least. It’s 5-4 Keys who is on serve: Gavrilova helps her putting in the net an easy backhand volley, and the following inside-out forehand winner gives Keys two set points. Another winner (a total of 14 for her in the first set), initially called out but promptly corrected by the chair umpire gives USA the first set: 6-4.

In the second set Keys grows in intensity, whilst Gavrilova uses more a more the lob, being pushed meters outside the baseline. “I adjusted a little bit to her game in the second set, hitting high balls too often and not being aggressive enough” admits Gavrilova in the press conference. The key of the set comes early in the third game, with Gavrilova facing two consecutive break points and sending in the net an overhead from no more than one meter to the net. On 3-1 Keys, Gavrilova is again under pressure facing 3 consecutive break points, but shows her fighting spirit and holds. From that moment on though it’s a monologue by Keys hitting winner after winner: her returns to the Australian serve are as fast as deep, her inside out forehand is lethal. And with an inside out forehand, which forces Gavrilova to hit the net with her backhand, Keys takes the second set and the rubber in just over an hour and a quarter: 6-4 6-2.


The gap today was too big, in terms of ball speed both in serve (170km/h for Keys with top of 194, 149km/h for Gavrilova who then had to face Keys’ return, twice as fast) and groundstrokes. Keys displayed great confidence which is now further boosted and puts her in a great mental position tomorrow against Stosur. “Tomorrow is another day” concludes a very disappointed Gavrilova, who was though able to smile during the press conference. “It’s a team competition, we win as a team and lose as a team. McHale plays similar to me and I defeated her last year in Rome“.


Christina McHale (USA) d. Sam Stosur (AUS) 3-6 6-1 7-5

Hopes to level the tie by Australia are on Sam Stosur. Ha, what’s in the mindset! What huge role the mindset played in Sam Stosur’s career?!? A chess game between the two players who play similar from a tactical point of view: long rallies, a forehand full of top spin (especially Stosur’s), often inside-out, and alternating a sliced backhand to a flat one. The first set is actually good tennis, with good court coverage by both players. Stosur’s class and experience prevail and Sam is up 5-2 and set point. Then something slowly happens and she turns into the one who is one step from victory and then gives up. McHale saves the set point to hold serve and then other three set points on Stosur’s serve. The Aussie eventually takes the set with a sort of half volley from the baseline, but foreboding signs are all there. And there you have the momentum swing: Stosur appears confused, cannot hit a ball, and makes an unforced error after the other. On 3-0 McHale, Stosur send two balls to the roof, and two to the stands, then losing the next game to love. The set ends 6-1 in less than half an hour and Stosur is so stunned that starts the third set by walking to the wrong end, realising it when she finds herself on the baseline, next to McHale!! The Aussie has to immediately face two break points, but manages to survive and refocus. The match goes back to what it was in the first set, but McHale is much more solid than before. Long rallies, great intensity and nice shots, e.g. a backhand stop volley by McHale which brings her to 2 all. Stosur is confident again, but the unforced errors (a total of 44 in the match for Stosur, against 33 for McHale) still exceed the winners (27 for the Australian, 34 for the American). The seventh game is dramatic, to say the least: 15-30 and then ace by Stosur, followed by a backhand winner by McHale and first break point. Stosur saves and then misses an easy backhand passing shot giving the second break point, which she saves in a long rally which resembles an arm wrestling fight. And so on for a total of 6 break points, which Stosur saves to then hold serve: the Pat Rafter Arena explodes in cheering and chanting for the 4-3 Australia. It’s a big momentum swing, but Stosur cannot exploit the moment. Or maybe it’s McHale who does not look too bothered. “I just tried to refocus and do not think back but forward” said McHale at the press conference. Oh boy, if she refocuses! Straight back to 4 all and then 5 all. Stosur serves so and so and two unforced errors give the game and the edge to the American. It’s a big blow and Stosur is now very tense: during the change of ends she smashes the water bottle to the ground and the patting on the leg by captain Alicia Molik does not do much. McHale has got the one occasion and does not let it slip, grabbing it quickly: 7-5.

Mary Joe Fernandez and Christina McHale at the press conference

Mary Joe Fernandez and Christina McHale at the press conference

At the press conference, Mary Joe Fernández, US captain, cannot hide her joy for the victories and the choice of McHale on Vanderweghe for the singles.”So far, so good” she says “we evaluated how the players were on the surface, how they were practicing, how they were feeling and then we took the decision” a winning decision indeed. “Now it’s an enormeous task for us” Alicia Molik realistically comments.

Fed Cup

Injury Heartbreak Motivates Australia In Billie Jean King Cup Tie With Mexico



SEVILLE, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 09: Storm Hunter of Team Australia reacts during the Billie Jean King Cup Finals group stage match between Australia and Kazakhstan at Estadio de La Cartuja on November 09, 2023 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images for ITF)

The captain of the Australian Billie Jean King Cup team says they are supporting one of their top players after she suffered a serious injury on the eve of their latest tie. 

Storm Hunter, who is currently ranked No.3 in the world for doubles, has suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon whilst training at a practice session on Thursday with her teammates. The severity of the injury means she will almost certainly be forced to pull out of this summer’s Olympic Games where she would have been a medal contender, as well as both the French Open and Wimbledon. Hunter has already won a WTA 1000 title this season in Dubai and was also runner-up in Indian Wells. In both of those tournaments, she was partnering Kateřina Siniaková. 

“Unfortunately yesterday in our last practice before the tie, I went down and scans last night confirmed that I have ruptured my Achilles tendon,” said Hunter.
“I am devastated and heartbroken, but incredibly grateful to be around the team and I know I have a great group of people around me that will help me get back on the court as soon as possible.
“Thank you everyone so much everyone for your messages of support and love. I’m excited to stay for the tie and support our Aussie girls.”

According to the Australian press, team captain Sam Stosur said Hunter’s teammates are ‘rallying behind‘ her and “wishing her the very, very best and the quickest recovery possible.”

As a result of the injury, Daria Saville was brought in to play in her country’s singles match on the opening day of their tie against Mexico on Friday. The world No.94 was in top form as she charged to a comprehensive 6-1, 6-0, win over Marcela Zacarias in less than an hour. 

“Yesterday was a pretty tough day for all of us, pretty emotional,” said Saville who has undergone surgery on her Achilles in the past. 
“It’s so nice to have Stormy here supporting us. Not long ago that kind of happened to me … so we’re giving Stormy a lot of love. 
“I felt like I was pretty determined and clearly that showed.”

Despite the blow, Australia is on the verge of beating Mexico. In the other singles match on the opening day, Arina Rodionova came back from a set down to beat Giuliana Olmos 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. With a 2-0 lead, they only need one more win to clinch the tie. 

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Fed Cup

Italian Captain Tathiana Garbin Reveals Rare Tumor Diagnoses After Team’s Loss At BJK Finals



Former top 30 player and captain of the Italian Billie Jean King Cup team Tathiana Garbin has publically announced that she is battling a serious health issue. 

Just hours after her team lost to Canada in the Billie Jean King Cup final in Seville on Sunday, the 46-year-old issued a statement confirming that she is undergoing treatment for a rare tumor that has been found in her stomach. Garbin had her first surgery in October but will have to undergo further procedures in the coming weeks. 

“I really wish to thank my Federation, which has constantly supported me with extraordinary solidarity and sensitivity,” Gabin said in a statement sent to the news agency Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA). 
“Seville was a very important event for me, and I absolutely didn’t want to miss it despite being very close to my operation: the Federation has shown they placed full trust in me. There is nothing that makes me prouder than representing the colors of Italy. “

Gabin says she hopes to raise awareness of medical research and prevention by going public about her condition, as well as hoping to inspire others with her story. She is being treated by Professor Di Candio and Professor Morelli at the Cisanello Hospital in Pisa. 

“I thank my BJ King Cup girls, who have shown me incredible love and support. Their presence and support have been a beacon of positivity in these difficult days,” she said in tribute to her team.
“However, I would like to inform you that I will have to undergo a second surgery, required by the treatment planned by the doctors. Thanks to the rapid recovery I have experienced, I am optimistic about being back on court.”

As a player, Garbin peaked at a ranking high of No.22 in singles and No.25 in doubles. Her sole singles title on the WTA Tour occurred in 2000 when she won the Budapest Open in Hungary. Seven years after that, she reached the fourth round of the French Open in what was her best-ever run at a major event. 

Garbin has served as Italy’s Billie Jean King Cup captain since 2016. 

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Fed Cup

Doubles Delight: Great Britain Ousts France 2-1 In Davis Cup Classic



Image via https://twitter.com/the_LTA/

Great Britain has won the last spot in the Davis Cup finals by prevailing in a highly dramatic clash against France in front of a record crowd in Manchester.

With the must-win showdown level at 1-1, the tie was decided by a rollercoaster doubles match with Dan Evans and Neil Skupski battling their way past Nicolas Mahut and Édouard Roger-Vasselin 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(6). In what was one of the most tense matches ever involving the British team, four match points were saved by the hosts. Evans fended off three whilst serving 4-5 down in the decider before Skupski saved one when he was serving two games later. To add to the drama, in the decisive tiebreaker Britain lost a mini-break advantage twice before prevailing on their second match point. 

“I don’t know how we’ve won that fight, sheer fight. Incredible effort from Dan to come out and win this match with me,” said Skupski.
“The first set wasn’t too good. We regrouped, took a toilet [break] and fought as hard as we could. Dan saving three points in the third set. The rest is history and we’re off to Malaga.” 

The triumph caps off what has been a marathon day at The AO Arena with all three matches going the full distance. A total of more than 13,000 seats was sold for the tie which is a record for a single day of Davis Cup action in the UK. 

Earlier in the day, Evans got Britain off to a perfect start by fighting back from a set and a break down to beat Arthur Fils 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, in what was a close fight. At the end of the encounter, there was a tense exchange between the two which continued during the doubles match with Evans seen making gestures towards the Frenchman who was watching from the stands. 

France’s sole victor was Ugo Humbert who beat former Wimbledon semi-finalist Cameron Norrie 7-6(5),3-6, 7-5. A new confidence blow to the British No.1 who has only won back-to-back matches in one out of his past five tournaments. 

“The team is amazing. We get on very well. Everyone’s played a part. It’s all those guys and girls standing there (in the stands) who are amazing.” Captain Leon Smith commented. 

Britain joins Australia in qualifying from Group B to November’s finals which will be held in Malaga. The team has won all three of their ties played in Manchester with their previous wins being over Australia and Switzerland earlier in the week. 

In total, eight teams have secured their place in the finals. Group stages have also been held in Spain, Croatia and Italy with the top two nations from each of those events progressing. 

Britain is seeking to win the Davis Cup title for only the second time in the Open Era after 2015. 

List of teams through to the knockout stages in Malaga

  • Great Britain
  • Australia
  • Finland
  • Italy
  • Canada
  • Serbia
  • Czech Republic
  • Netherlands

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