CLEVELAND, USA: It’s difficult to challenge the reigning Fed Cup by BNP Paribas champions as the USA discovered when they fell behind to Italy 2-0 at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio on Saturday.
Italy started out this quarterfinal tie with their No. 1 player Karin Knapp taking on the USA’s Christina McHale. After two hours 14 minutes, the 40th-ranked Knapp kept Italy in their winning ways by upending the 62nd-ranked McHale 63 36 61.
“I’m the number one,” said Knapp, of her status on the team. “The other girls are new. If I get the point, maybe Camila goes on the court a little bit more relaxed.”
And that is exactly as it happened.
The second match flew by as 84th-ranked Camila Giorgi, playing in her first ever Fed Cup competition, delivered the second point of the day to Italy with a stunning 62 61 drubbing of 37th-ranked Madison Keys. It took Giorgi all of one hour to pull off the quick win.
“I came into the court, I was not nervous,” Giorgi said. “Was good. Especially I was feeling good.”
Italian captain Corrado Barazzutti wasn’t claiming victory just yet as he knows he still needs for his squad to win one more rubber on Sunday to move into the semifinals.
“We are pleased, but not happy,” Barazzutti said. “We wait until tomorrow. It’s a good result for us today to be two-love. We need the one point more. I want my players to stay grounded.”
Despite being two points down, Fernandez is hopeful she can rally her team for a comeback on Sunday.
“The good news is we’re still in it,” Fernandez said. “I told the team before we started today, I really feel like we can win every match. Now the pressure's on. Tomorrow is a new day. We start from the very first match to try to get that point on the board and go from there.”
The USA is 0-10 in comeback attempts from 0-2 down since the Fed Cup World Group format came into being in 1995.
McHale went into the match having won her last four Fed Cup singles matches — she lost her first three played — but she couldn’t keep the momentum going.
Knapp, playing in her third Fed Cup tie, came into this quarterfinal having lost her one previous singles match and with a 1-1 score in doubles. She now has her first Fed Cup singles victory.
In the first set, Knapp quieted the crowd when she broke McHale’s serve on a second break point opportunity in the fourth game. McHale hit a backhand way wide at 15-40 to surrender her serve in that game.
Serving at 5-3, 40-0 for the first set, Knapp watched McHale net a backhand to hand over the first set.
McHale, however, rebounded in the second set after losing her serve in the 16-point first game.. Knapp opened the door for McHale when she lost her serve in the second game of the set at love — the first two points of that game were double faults. At 3-3 in the second set, McHale won the final three games to even the score at one set apiece.
“I had one game not really good, the second game in the second set,” Knapp said. “I made two double-faults and some more errors. But it can happen. In the second set, Christina hit the ball harder and I did a little bit too much just cross-court. She got confidence.”
The third set was all about Knapp who raced to a 4-0 lead. McHale was only able to win one game in the final set, breaking Knapp’s serve in the fifth game on a second break point at 30-40 when Knapp sailed a backhand long.
“I feel like once she got those first two games (In the third set) she really just started playing and really going for all her shots,” Keys said. “By giving her that lead she really relaxed.”
The statistics for the match accurately showed it was Knapp who took the chances, which ended up paying off. Knapp put up 30 winners to only 12 for McHale. The fact that Knapp had 57 unforced errors to 49 for McHale was of little consequence.
Giorgi had control of the match from the outset, never letting Keys find her footing. The Italian took advantage of five of eight break point opportunities and just waited for the American to make mistakes, 47 unforced errors to only 27 for Giorgi.
“All credit to her,” Keys said. “She was playing amazingly. I felt like every time i was trying to get back into a point, hit a good shot, she was hitting another really good one right back at me.”
Keys could never get her serve going in the match — her first serve percentage was a drastically low 48 percent.
Sunday will open with Knapp taking on Keys, followed by Giorgi playing McHale. In doubles, Nastassja Burnett and Alice Matteucci of Italy are supposed to take on Lauren Davis and Alison Riske of USA.
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Captain Corrado Barazzutti (ITA) - 08/02/2014
Camila Giorgi (ITA) - 08/02/2014
Captain Mary Joe Fernandez (USA) - 08/02/2014