Italy crush US to retain Fed Cup
Originally published on: 08/11/10 11:47
Italy defended their Fed Cup crown in style on Sunday, routing the US 3-1 in San Diego.
Flavia Pennetta anchored the Italians to victory with two of the three singles victories against an inexperienced American team, thrashing debutant CoCo Vandeweghe 6-1 6-2 after Melanie Oudin had upset Francesca Schiavone 6-3 6-1 to keep the tie alive.
The US team were up against it from the moment both Serena and Venus Williams withdrew from the squad with injury, having committed to play in the final earlier in the year. In their absence, world No.59 Bethanie Mattek-Sands was the highest-ranked American in the squad.
In contrast, Italy could call upon Roland Garros champion Schiavone and Pennetta, the first Italian to break into the top ten and year-end doubles No.1 with Gisela Dulko, riding high on the confidence of winning the WTA Championships a week earlier.
The gulf between the squads was soon evident as Schiavone eased past Vandeweghe, playing in her home town, with a 6-2 6-4 victory on Saturday, and while Mattek-Sands gave Pennetta a stern test in the first set, her challenge faded after a set point came and went as she slumped to a 7-6(4) 6-2 defeat.
Things didn’t get any easier for US Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez when Mattek-Sands withdrew with illness from Sunday’s reverse singles, but up stepped Oudin – overlooked as the US No.2 on account of Vandeweghe’s powerful serve and ground strokes.
But Oudin, who has endured a tough season following her rise to prominence at the 2009 US Open, rose to the challenge after receiving encouragement from American legend Billie Jean King ahead of her match.
“I heard her cheering,” Oudin said. “I was playing for myself, the team and the whole US. Sometimes the Fed Cup can bring out the best in people and that’s what happened today.”
Her best was enough to stun Schiavone, who had no response to a six-game run from Oudin that sealed the first set and put her 3-0 up in the second.
“Today is the best I’ve played in a long time. I felt confident out there.”
But she could only delay Italy’s march to the title by a match, as Pennetta dismantled Vandeweghe as she cruised to victory.
“I’m very disappointed in myself and the way that it turned out. But I tried my best out there, fought as hard as I could,” admitted a tearful Vandeweghe. “It’s definitely emotional right now losing for my country and for my teammates, people that kind of counted on me to pull out a win.”
In the end, however, Italy proved too strong and matched Russia’s 2007-08 double to the delight of the 3,000 travelling fans and captain Corrado Barazzutti.
“I am very lucky captain because I have a great team and it’s easy,” said Barazzutti, who lifted the Davis Cup for Italy in 1976. “I’m proud that in five years we have won three Fed Cups and reached one final. But it’s easy to be captain of this team because they are very strong.”