LIMOGES, FRANCE: It was a baptism of fire for France captain Amelie Mauresmo in her first tie in charge as Sabine Lisicki and Julia Goerges gave Germany a commanding 2-0 lead over the hosts on day one of the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II first round tie in Limoges.
Two straight sets victories may suggest that it was a comfortable day for the away side but that was far from the case with Lisicki and Goerges made to work hard for their victories over Pauline Parmentier and Kristina Mladenovic, respectively. One victory tomorrow will be enough to see the Germans through to April’s World Group play-offs.
A look at the two captains as the day progressed told the story. Germany captain Barbara Rittner, who has been at the helm since 2005, could not have looked more laidback, while Mauresmo was constantly out of her chair at the changeovers trying to inspire a comeback.
“It’s a tough start but congratulations to the Germans,” said Mauresmo, the former world No.1. “I think they both showed great experience. They played a really high level of tennis today."
Mauresmo made quite a call to bring in Pauline Parmentier to replace Marion Bartoli, who was forced to pull out through flu. It had been presumed that world No. 36 Alize Cornet, ranked 40 places higher than Parmentier, would have been the straight replacement but Parmentier’s efforts in practice, and perhaps her win over Lisicki in the Internationaux de Strasbourg last year, got her the nod.
Lisicki came in with confidence having reached the final of the PTT Pattaya Open last week and, despite the change in surface from hard to clay, continued that good form from the off. Lisicki’s forehand and serve were particularly strong and a stunning forehand return earned her the first break for 3-1.
After saving a set point in the previous game, Parmentier managed to break back when Lisicki served for the match at 5-3, but the Frenchwoman faltered again when serving at 5-6, hitting a forehand wide on set point down to give Lisicki the early advantage.
The second set was tight with both saving a break point each in the early stages, but again when Parmentier was serving to stay in the set at 5-6, she faltered. One match point was saved when Lisicki hit a backhand wide but the German made no mistake on her second match point, hitting a backhand winner down the line to clinch a 75 75 victory in one hour and 47 minutes.
Considering this was Mladenovic’s first Fed Cup singles match, it was big ask of the 19-year-old to beat Goerges, who is ranked 50 places higher at No.19. Yes, the Frenchwoman had beaten her in the Open GDF Suez last week but representing your country brings a different type of pressure to that of a regular tour match.
Goerges took the first set 6-3 in 38 minutes and went an early break up in the second when Mladenovic double faulted in the fourth break point of the game. The tide began to turn, though, when Mladenovic saved two break points at 1-3 before breaking for 3-3 when Goerges put a drop shot wide.
The momentum was turning and the home crowd at the Palais des Sports Beaublanc felt it. With Goerges serving at 4-5, Mladenovic earned a set point but the German saved it with a forehand winner down the line.
The set went to a nervy tiebreak with several mini breaks exchanged, before Mladenovic hit three forehand errors in a row from 5-4, going down 63 76(5), the second set lasting a lengthy one hour and 19 minutes.
“I think Kristina had little opportunities at the end of the second set but maybe the lack of experience in this competition played a big role,” said Mauresmo. “I felt it [the momentum] was changing but just these last couple of points were not in her favour and she didn’t take the chance in this moment. She learns the hard way but that’s how it is.”
Goerges, who impressively hit 62 winners to just eight unforced errors against Mladenovic, will now have the opportunity to clinch the tie for Germany tomorrow when she takes on Parmentier in the first rubber, although with Cornet seen hitting on the court at the end of the day’s play, Mauresmo could be tempted to make a change.
For match statistics see: Live scores
Julia Goerges (GER) - 09/02/2013
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) - 09/02/2013
Captain Amelie Mauresmo (FRA) - 09/02/2013
Sabine Lisicki (GER) - 09/02/2013
Pauline Parmentier (FRA) - 09/02/2013