FRIBOURG, SWITZERLAND: Given that the lowest ranked player in the Australian team, Casey Dellacqua, is higher ranked than any in the Swiss team there is a temptation to consider the result of this Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II tie in Fribourg a foregone conclusion.
Sam Stosur for one certainly isn’t. She hasn’t forgotten the last time they were expected to win easily, against Ukraine last April, and ended up losing 3-2 at home.
“If there ever was a time we certainly learned our lesson from the last Fed Cup we played, against the Ukraine, we were heavy favourites then and we managed to lose that one,” said the US Open champion. “So, I think there’s definitely no chance of being complacent now - or in the future.”
Having just had what she described as a “disastrous summer”, going out in the first round of her home Grand Slam, the world No. 5 is in no mood to take anything for granted. Having said that, the Aussies have shown their hosts the respect of fielding their strongest team and the slow, indoor clay surface at the Forum Fribourg isn’t expected to bring a halt to Australia's progress in the competition this year.
Nevertheless it’s difficult to gauge exactly the strength of the Swiss team which lost 3-1 to Australia two years ago and 5-0 the last time they received them at home five-and-a-half years ago. There’s no Patty Schnyder any more but there are echoes, albeit distant ones, of the halcyon days of Swiss women’s teams when a young Martini Hingis was emerging with the inclusion of 14-year-old Belinda Bencic in the team.
Timea Bacsinszky is the real unknown quantity, though. At her best she is more than capable of giving the Australians a problem but she hasn’t played serious tennis since winning both her rubbers against Sweden in April last year. Afterwards she suffered a foot injury away from the game which has since twice required surgery to put right.
She won the Swiss championship in December which was good for her confidence but she is aware that it is no real sort of preparation for what lies in store for her on court on day one against Stosur, a player who is just as happy on clay as any other surface, having reached the final of the Rome tournament last year and, of course, the French Open final in 2010.
“I hope – I think - I’m ready,” Bacsinszky said. “For sure there are going to be some emotions for me this weekend. I’ve been waiting for this for such a long time. I’m going to give 100 per cent and more to bring back points for Switzerland.”
Switzerland must hope that Stefanie Voegele, who will be heading up the team for the first time now that Schnyder has retired, can bring it level in the second rubber on day one. She has never played her opponent, Jarmila Gajdosova, before but she did play a close three-set match against Stosur in that 3-1 defeat two years ago.
“We’re different now, we have a new team but I can’t say yet whether we are better or worse than two years ago,” said Chrisitiane Jolissaint, the Swiss captain. “Timea is just coming back from injury so her ranking, 246, doesn’t show her playing qualities and Stefanie will be holding the flag for the first time. We used to have Patty on the team and she was an excellent player, she brought a lot to the Fed Cup team – it’s just different.
“We have a newcomer in Belinda Bencic, who is 14-and-a-half. It’s very important for her to have this experience. There will be no surprises for her any more. From the beginning she knew she was probably not going to play also because we don’t want to burn her. Comparisons with Martina are not important. What’s important is that she’s Swiss, she’s playing for Switzerland and she could become one of the very good players in the world.”
The full draw is listed below.
R1: Bacsinszky (SUI) v Stosur (AUS)
R2: Voegele (SUI) v Gajdosova (AUS)
R3: Voegele (SUI) v Stosur (AUS)
R4: Bacsinszky (SUI) v Gajdosova (AUS)
R5: Bacsinszky / Sadikovic (SUI) v Dellacqua / Dokic (AUS)
Captain Christiane Jolissaint (SUI) - 03/02/2012
Stefanie Voegle (SUI) - 03/02/2012
Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) - 03/02/2012
Captain David Taylor (AUS) - 03/02/2012
Samantha Stosur (AUS) - 03/02/2012
Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS) - 03/02/2012