STUTTGART, GERMANY: German fans can only take solace in the fact that the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas at the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart is just a stone’s throw away from the city’s beer festival, Fruehlingsfest. They will no doubt be visiting the festival later to drown their sorrows over Germany’s relegation from the World Group.
Australian fans may want to visit the festival too, but for celebration purposes.
All those watching today’s matches would have wondered overnight whether German captain Barbara Rittner would change her singles line-up for Sunday and use her top-ranked player, Andrea Petkovic.
The question arose after both Angelique Kerber (No. 14) and Julia Goerges (16) were defeated in straight sets by Australia’s Samantha Stosur (5) and Jarmila Gajdosova (50) respectively on Saturday, leaving Germany down two in the tie. After much consideration, Rittner opted to use Petkovic in the third rubber, but to no avail.
Petkovic, ranked 11, got her chance to shine for Germany in her comeback match, having been out for three months owing to injury. The chance must have come as a bit of shock as she had only been slotted to play doubles following Friday’s draw.
“I was prepared not to play at all,” Petkovic said afterwards. “But I knew as of yesterday evening, and I prepared myself as well as possible, but unfortunately it wasn’t my day today.”
Petkovic awoke Sunday to a shed load of pressure, with her team down two and her having to face off with Australia’s ace, Stosur, ranked fifth in the world.
Both Petkovic and Stosur came out swinging hard, and there were a few brief moments in the first set when fans may have thought Petkovic might break through, but pressure seems to have gotten the best of the German.
“I really enjoyed the [crowd’s] support, but I definitely felt the pressure. Of course, you expect a comeback with maybe a little less pressure than Fed Cup, but I’m always expect nothing less than to win, so that was really disappointing,” Petkovic said.
To be fair, Petkovic fought hard for every point in the first set, making some in the stands wonder whether the exchange of volleys would ever end between them when it was four games to five in Stosur’s favour. Controlling serve was an issue for both players, but as Petkovic said: “[Stosur] made the right decisions in the big moments…and didn’t give me many chances.”
Petkovic never found her rhythm in the second set and only got into the set after going down three games to nil. She finally pulled out a single game – her first and last in the set – to stand at one game to three.
In the end, the stronger player prevailed, clinching Australia’s third crucial point in the tie in two sets, 64 61.
So much for the 50-50 chance the German captain Barbara Rittner had given her team heading into the tie. Rittner had predicted a difficult matchup during Friday’s draw, and Australia certainly served up a tough pill to swallow.
The fourth dead rubber between Angelique Kerber and Australia's Olivia Rogowska did go Germany's way, as did the doubles as potential Olympic pairing of Andrea Petkovic and Julia Goerges took out Jarmila Gajdosova and Casey Dellacqua in straight sets, but it was too late. Germany is now relegated to the World Group II for 2013. They will have to battle back during next year’s first round to try and regain a standing in the elite eight-nation contest.
Stosur, for her part, was grinning from ear to ear, and understandably so. She served the green and gold team well, clinching two points early on and securing the team’s elite standing for next year.
“I’ve played well,” Stosur said afterwards, reflecting on both of her singles’ matches. “I’ve won my second match in straight sets, and to put the team through to the World Group again is a really nice feeling.”
Tonight, she said, the team will be celebrating with a team dinner. With next year’s World Group standing secured, it will no doubt be quite a celebration.
Captain David Taylor (AUS) - 22/04/12
Samantha Stosur (AUS) - 22/04/12
Captain Barbara Rittner (GER) - 22/04/12
Andrea Petkovic (GER) - 22/04/12