2014/08/02

Knapp Sacks Riske: Italy Advances in Fed Cup Over USA

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By Steve Fogleman

(February 9, 2014) Karin Knapp followed up on her win over Christina McHale yesterday with a clinching 6-3, 7-5 victory today over Alison Riske in the first round of the 2014 Fed Cup season in Cleveland, Ohio. The Italians defeated the American team in all three live rubbers.

Knapp did had some trouble closing it out over Riske, who was a last-minute replacement for Madison Keys in an effort by Captain Mary Joe Fernandez to get some momentum for the US. Riske acquitted herself well. She elevated her game in the second set, and after drawing even with the Italian, she was broken at 5-5 in the next game. Knapp served it out from here.

Overall, the match was more competitive than it might appear.

“It’s not easy because she came back. I got a little bit nervous. I got a little bit of emotion.”

Knapp told the press that the team made a pact to jump in the Cleveland snow if they won the tie.

“After this, we will all put the jacket on, the scarf on and we will jump in the snow!”, she said.

No word on when and where that photo opportunity will occur, but the snowy tundra of Cleveland Public Square is conveniently located between the venue and the Fed Cup hotel.

The snow didn’t stop the crowd from arriving to cheer on the US team, but it did slow them down. There were many empty seats at the start of the tie, but the fans filled in to create a boisterous cheering section by the beginning of the second set. The Public Auditorium was noticeably louder than yesterday.

Riske

Riske

Riske had a “big group of people from Pittsburgh” to join her for the event. She called the tie “an unbelievable experience” and noted the “awesome” support from the fans.

She’ll be in training in the two weeks leading up to Indian Wells.

Madison Keys and Lauren Davis won the inconsequential doubles rubber 6-2, 6-3 over Nastassja Burnett and Alice Matteucci.

Italy will advance to the quarterfinals, while the US will be attempting to simply avoid relegation from the World Group in their next outing.

Steve Fogleman is Editor of TennisEastCoast.com, a Mid-Atlantic based tennis website. He is in Cleveland, Ohio covering the Fed Cup tie between USA and Italy for Tennis Panorama News.

Related article:

Catching Up with Alison Riske at Fed Cup in Cleveland

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Italy Rallies Past US to Move into Fed Cup Semis

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Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci

(February 10, 2013) Italy came back from 1-2 down to defeat the United States in Fed Cup 3-2 on Sunday in the first round of the World Group in Rimini, Italy.

 

World No. 1 doubles team Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci sealed the win for Italy in the fifth rubber with a victory over Varvara Lepchenko and Liezel Huber 6-2, 6-2.

 

“Errani and Vinci are the weapon,” said Huber. They are like sisters. They are like best friends. They can almost see each other’s body language and predict something before it has happened. They have a different style than what we are used to and stick to their style. They are great singles players and don’t discount doubles. I enjoy watching them play, just not against me!”

 

The United States led 2-1 after Lepchenko beat world No, 7 Errani 7-5, 6-2 in the first of reverse singles on Sunday.

 

“In the first set, I had to get my body started,“ said Lepchenko. “I had a long match yesterday, so I was a bit up and down in the beginning. Once my body warmed up, I was playing better and better in the second set and got pumped and got going.”

 

Vinci rallied for Italy topping Jamie Hampton 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to send the tie into a fifth rubber.

“I had a tough match yesterday, so I had to regroup and do my best for the team,” Hampton. ”First set, I made a lot of errors and started off like yesterday. I got back together in the second set and thought I had a hold of the match, but I made a lot of errors.”

 

 

Italy will next host defending champion Czech Republic in the Fed Cup semifinals, a rematch of last year’s semifinal. The other semifinal has Slovakia at Russia.

 

Next the United States will play in the World Group Playoff, April 20-21, to remain in contention for the Fed Cup World Group l in 2014 and to try and stave off relegation to World Group II next year. The United States’ opponent will be drawn on Wednesday, February 13, at 10 a.m. GMT at the ITF offices in London.

 

The U.S., who will be seeded will play one of the four winners of the World Group II First Round (Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, or Germany). The host site for Switzerland or Sweden will be determined by a coin toss on Wednesday. The U.S. would host Spain or Germany.

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Fed Cup Rookie Lepchenko Keeps Team USA’s Hopes Alive in Fed Cup

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(February 9, 2013) United States Fed Cup rookie world No. No. 21 Varvara Lepchenko kept US hopes alive against Italy by defeating.  No. 16 Roberta Vinci  2-6, 6-4, 7-5 in the second singles rubber on Saturday to even the first round tie at 1-1. The match, which lasted for two hours and 17 minutes marked the first time the two women had ever faced off against each other.

Italy’s Sara Errani ranked No. 7 defeated Jamie Hampton 6-2, 6-1 in the first rubber.

“Even though this was my first Fed Cup match, I wasn’t that nervous because I had the experience in the Olympics,” said Lepchenko. “I was very nervous there, so I didn’t want to let my emotions get to me here in Fed Cup. I thought of this as a first match in a tournament and I just needed to get into it. In the second set, I was in it.”

 

“I was really proud of the way Varvara approached the match and how disciplined she was,” said US Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez. “Even when she was down, she competed really well. In Fed Cup, things get complicated and there is always tension. It probably wasn’t easy for her playing for the first time in Fed Cup without a home crowd, but she did a great job blocking it out. She kept fighting and kept believing. Varvara has a great game and can play anyone. She can make anyone feel uncomfortable and she did that today. She played her heart out.”

 

 

“It has been amazing to be a part of a team this week,” Lepchenko added.” I have so much support from all of them. I feel like I can’t let them down. I played more for them today than for myself.”

 

Lepchenko led 5-1 in the third set, but the momentum shifted, and the third set was even at 5-5. Lepchenko then broke Vinci and held serve to win the final set, 7-5 on her third try serving for the match. This was Lepchenko’s best career win since beating then-world No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova in the second round of the WTA event in Montreal last year. This was also her best win on clay since upsetting then-world No. 12 Francesca Schiavone en route to the fourth round of the 2012 French Open.

 

 

“I am really proud of the way I handled myself today,” Lepchenko said. “I have had many people cheering against me in many tournaments throughout the year, so this time, I was happy to see my team cheering for me. They really helped me.”

 

The US is 1-1 against Italy going into day 2 play on Sunday. Since the Fed Cup World Group format was instituted in 1995, the U.S. is 8-4 when tied 1-1 with the opposing country. The U.S. is 8-10 when playing on the road and 4-13 when losing the first singles rubber.

Sunday’s schedule – in the first singles match of the day, Varvara Lepchenko and Sara Errani, the No. 1 players from each team, will square off in the third singles rubber followed by Jamie Hampton versus Roberta Vinci. The doubles rubber will close the tie it will feature Melanie Oudin and Liezel Huber for the US against Karin Knapp and Fed Cup rookie Nastassja Burnett for Italy.

 

“We are still in this tie and it is fantastic,“ said Fernandez. “I told the girls that the goal was to win any three matches any which way. We have one, so we are looking for two tomorrow. Varvara will play Sara, who won today, so that will be very tough. Sara has great clay-court variety and is a strong Top 10 player. Jamie will go out there against Vinci and give it her all. I’m excited.”

 

Tennis Channel will provide television coverage of the second day of play beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET on Sunday.

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US Fed Cup Team Takes on Italy This Weekend in Rimini

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(February 8, 2013) The United States will take on Italy in the Fed Cup World Group First Round this weekend. Play begins Saturday at 3:00 p.m. local time on an indoor clay court at the 105 Stadium in Rimini, Italy.

The US team goes into the tie with the pressure of being huge underdogs. “There is always pressure,” said said US Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez. “This comes with the sport and team competition, you aren’t just out there for yourself. The Italians are the favorites and they have a wonderful record, but we have been in this situation many times before. All of the players have different styles on both teams and we have to make the adjustments as they come.

“I am expecting to do well. If we win, it won’t be a surprise. We are going in with a very positive attitude and will take each match as it comes and fight our hearts out to do our best. We know the capabilities of both sides and this will bring out the best in both teams. It will be an interesting tie.”

 

World No. 64 Jamie Hampton, who will be making her live Fed Cup singles debut will open the tie against world No. 7 Sara Errani. Hampton and Errani have met once on the WTA Tour—in the first round of the US Open Series event in Cincinnati in 2010, where Errani won the meeting 6-4, 6-2. Hampton enters Fed Cup with an appearance in the third round of the 2013 Australian Open and a semifinal showing at the WTA event in Auckland, New Zealand, the week prior. Errani will be playing in her eleventh Fed Cup singles match (6-4 record), but just her fifth live singles rubber. She is 1-3 in live singles rubbers.

 

“I am excited to make my Fed Cup debut in a live singles match,” said Hampton. “Errani is a great clay court player and is having a lot of success. The match will start off level, so I’ll go out there and give it my all. It should be a good start.”

 

“Errani, as we all know, plays the best on clay and moves very well,“ said US Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez. “Through the years, the Americans have really developed on clay and like playing on clay. Everyone on my team has enjoyed practicing on it this week. They have had good results on it, as well. Unlike ten years ago, where everyone was very apprehensive about clay, we are looking forward to it and we like the challenge.”

 

The second singles rubber will see world No. 21 Varvara Lepchenko face off against world No. 16 Roberta Vinci. Like Hampton, Lepchenko will also be making her Fed Cup debut. Lepchenko reached the fourth round of the French Open last year, her career-best Grand Slam singles result, and reached the doubles semifinals at the 2013 Australian Open. Lepchenko has been living in the U.S. since 2001 after receiving political asylum. She officially changed her nationality in 2007 to play for the U.S and became an official U.S. citizen in September 2011. Vinci holds a 1-3 record in Fed Cup singles matches and has never won a live singles match (0-3 record). Vinci is also a doubles specialist and currently ranked No. 1 in doubles after winning the 2013 Australian Open doubles title with Errani, who is currently ranked No. 2 in doubles. Lepchenko and Vinci have never faced each other on the WTA Tour.

In this tie, the United States makes its return to the World Group after starting its 2012 Fed Cup campaign in World Group II for the first time ever. The match will mark the 12th matchup between the U.S. and Italy in Fed Cup competition. The two countries last met in the 2010 Fed Cup final in San Diego and also faced each other in the 2009 final in Reggio Calabria, Italy, both won by the Italians. The U.S., however, leads the overall series, 9-2. The U.S. last won against Italy in the 2003 World Group quarterfinal in Washington D.C. The winner of this tie will advance to the semifinals, held April 20-21.

 

This will be the fifth year as U.S. captain for Mary Joe Fernandez. Fernandez led the U.S. to consecutive Fed Cup finals appearances in her first two years as captain (2009 and 2010), where the team faced Italy both times. She was the first U.S. captain to accomplish that feat since Marty Riessen in 1986-87. Fernandez holds a 6-4 record as U.S. Fed Cup captain.

The order of play for the weekend:

DAY/LOCAL TIME MATCH PAIRING

Saturday, 3:00 p.m. Singles A: Jamie Hampton (USA) vs. Sara Errani (ITA)

Singles B: Varvara Lepchenko (USA) vs. Roberta Vinci (ITA)

Sunday, 1:30 p.m. Singles C: Varvara Lepchenko (USA) vs. Sara Errani (ITA)

Singles D: Jamie Hampton (USA) vs. Roberta Vinci (ITA)

Doubles: Liezel Huber/Melanie Oudin (USA) vs. Karin Knapp/ Nastassja Burnett (ITA)

Television viewers in the United States will be able to watch the tie live on Tennis Channel beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET on Saturday and 7:30 a.m. ET on Sunday.

 

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