After losing badly the first set Vandeweghe adjusts to Stosur’s serve and increases her serve’s effectiveness to take rubber and tie
FED CUP, World Group, play-off
Australia – USA 0-4 (From Brisbane Robbie Cappuccio)
After a disappointing Saturday, Australia was trailing two-love and had to show their best to try to level the tie to take it to the decider doubles. “It’s about regrouping and I think believing and trusting ourselves tomorrow” . These were the words by Alicia Molik at the after-match (pardon, rubber) press conference yesterday. For about one hour and a bit trust grew today, to then collapse under Vandeweghe’s strokes. It ended with Stosur in tears and USA back to the World Group.
The fourth singles was not played. In the doubles, Gavrilova/Rodionova lost to Vandeweghe/Mattek-Sands 1-6 4-6 to complete the Aussie debacle.
USA deserved the victory showing more determination, more aggressiveness and more resilience bouncing back twice from one set down. Keys played impressively well (watch out for the upcoming clay season), both McHale and Vandeweghe started slow but regrouped and did not miss a chance when it came up. Gavrilova was possibly a bit too nervous but was clearly out-powered by Keys whilst Stosur started both rubbers perfectly to then melting along the way in the tropical Brisbane heat.
CoCo Vandeweghe (USA) d. Sam Stosur (AUS) 2-6 7-5 6-4
Another beautiful tropical day in Brisbane and the Pat Rafter Arena is crowded and loud. Aussies love tennis and love supporting their team and showing their colours. It’s such a pleasure to see 70 years old ladies all dressed up in green and gold (including wigs) and so competent in the nuances of this beautiful game.
The first rubber of the day starts with a surprise, as Coco Vandeweghe takes the court replacing Madison Keys (who is wearing sunglasses instead of the team’s uniform). Stosur starts so determined you would not believed 24 hours earlier she had badly choked. When the rally is longer than 4 shots Vandeweghe is winning it, but Stosur is serving (78% first serve at 170 km/h) and returning so well that seldom a rally is that long. Vandeweghe seems incapable of opposing and the Australian flies up 3-0, then 5-2 and set point: same situation as yesterday. This time she gets it taking advantage of the American sending Stosur’s return a couple of meter long: 6-2 Australia in less than half an hour.
Everybody is expecting Sam’s dip in focus, and guess what? She faces 3 consecutive break points in the first game, but today it’s a different Stosur who is able to regroup and hold serve. Even though Stosur keeps serving well (75% first serve) Vandeweghe has finally adjusted to her serve and returns very effectively. Her serve also grows (4 aces and 78% points won on first serve) with a sliced serve to the forehand and flat to the backhand of Stosur, and the match becomes tight. Let’s face it, it’s not a great match, but the tension keeps the spectators glued to their seats, exploding in chants to support the Australian. “I want to thank the Aussie crowd for cheering against me so hard it was really something special” says a cheeky Coco in the after match interview. At 5-5, yesterday’s Stosur reappears on the court: she makes and then breaks the game, with a double fault, a couple of great winners to lead 40-30 and then unforced errors to lose serve. Vandeweghe thanks for the gift and with a couple of aces takes the set 7-5.
Stosur is now suffering against the American and loses serve straight away and Vanderweghe consolidates. “I was in control in the first but losing set 2 was huge. A match like that can come down to a couple of points” says the Australian at the press conference. Even if the Aussie keeps to love her next three service games, the momentum is on the American side and Vanderweghe even ventures in a serve and volley, with forehand half volley brushing the net and dropping in Stosur serve box. Without much excitement the match goes to 5-4 with Vandeweghe serving for the rubber and the tie. The game is dramatic with the chair umpire Carlos Ramos correcting a double fault (no hawk eye on clay and by the way it was out) and giving Vanderweghe the possibility of replay point. Then on 30 all the American double faults (a total of 6 for her today) rising Australian hopes. Stosur faces the opportunity by sending long an overhead from the service line. She has a second chance this time frustrated by Vanderweghe’s forhand winner (18 winners today for her, 12 for Stusur). A cross court backhand then forces Stosur to the error giving USA the match point and tie point: Vandeweghe’s serve stops on Stosur’s racquet and USA is back to the World Group, leaving the crowd extremely disappointed and Stosur in tears. “It’s disappointing and frustrating but it’s better to go down in a tight one. It does not make it any easier right now, but on the whole I was playing a good tennis” she says at the press conference.
Double Blow For Spain As Top Players Skip Billie Jean King Cup To Play WTA Finals
The close proximity of the two events has caused a headache for Spanish team who hasn’t won the team competition for more than 20 years.
The Spanish squad for the upcoming Billie Jean King Cup Finals suffered a setback on Monday after their two highest ranked singles players announced that they will not be playing.
Garbine Muguruza and Paula Badosa have both pulled out of the 12-team event which will take place next week in Prague, Czech Republic. The duo are the only Spanish players currently ranked inside the top 30 on the WTA Tour. Two-time Grand Slam champion Muguruza is currently fifth in the standings and Indian Wells winner Badosa is 13th.
In a statement posted on her social media account, Muguruza said her recovery from an ankle injury is taking longer than expected and instead wants to focus on getting ready for the WTA Finals which will take place the week after in Mexico. The 28-year-old has represented her country in the competition, which was formerly known as the Fed Cup, six times in her career.
“Unfortunately, I will not be able to play in the BJK Cup this year. The last months have obviously been very demanding with the Olympics, Chicago and the new date of Indian Wells,” Muguruza said.
“I have not been home since July. The recovery in my ankle is taking a little longer than expected and I will spend the next weeks trying to get ready for Guadalajara (Mexico). I wish the team all the best and cheering for you to do very well.”
Badosa’s reason for skipping the event is also because she wants to focus on the prestigious WTA Finals which has a prize money pool of $5 million. She hasn’t played a match on the Tour since winning the biggest title of her career in Indian Wells where she defeated three top players in a row. In the final she ousted Victoria Azarenka in three sets.
“I am sorry to announce that I will not be with the Spanish team in Prague. It hurts me to make the decision because of the calendar,” said Badosa.
“ I have all the illusion to be in the future in the team and to live great moments together with everyone. This time I will have to cheer from a distance.”
The duo will be replaced in the team by Rebeka Masárová and Aliona Bolsova. Sara Sorribes Tormo, Nuria Párrizas Diaz and Carla Suárez Navarro have already been nominated to play.
Spain has been drawn in Group C for the Billie Jean King Cup finals along with America and Slovakia. The tournament will get underway on November 1st.
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.
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