It’s hard to believe that Germany hasn’t been in a Fed Cup by BNP Paribas semifinal since 1995, but that statistic is now banished to history, thanks to Angelique Kerber’s 63 76(5) victory over Dominika Cibulkova that sees the Germans into this year’s semis. It gave Germany a 3-0 lead, and means the Germans are due to travel to Australia in April’s semifinals.
Although the score reads brutally for the Slovaks, the decisive match was rich in high quality tennis, with even Cibulkova admitting that she played well but Kerber played just a little better. Cibulkova did very well to fight back from a storming start by Kerber, one which saw the German take the first nine points, and while the first set shows a reasonably even 63 scoreline, the fact was that Cibulkova needed to go to deuce on all three games she won, while Kerber was winning most of her games easily.
But the Australian Open runner-up got into the match early in the second set, starting to mobilise the tremendous support for her. Her winners were greeted with increasingly loud cheers, and the atmosphere inside the Aegon Arena became electric.
The problem for the home fans was that Kerber was playing at a very high level.
Her serve was back to the fluency that had deserted her at the Australian Open, her backhand was low and lethal, and her down-the-line forehand, that always looks as if she’s left the hitting point fractionally too late, was finding its target with impressive regularity.
At 5-4, Kerber was two points from putting Germany into the semfinals, but Cibulkova fought back. The tension was heightened by the fact that the Slovak ran out of challenges, so she was unable to question one dubious service winner from the German. But Cibulkova got the set into the tiebreak. Both players were clearly nervous, but Kerber had the greater energy, and although she let a 5-3 lead slip, she held firm to see a Cibulkova forehand drift wide on the German’s first match point.
"I had so much emotion from the team," Kerber said. "It was tough, so I was just trying to play point-by-point. I think I played well, I moved well, I mixed it up well, sometimes aggressive, sometimes defensive, and I’m so happy that we’re now through."
The Slovaks did have one moment of triumph. Midway through the doubles rubber, it was announced that Slovakia had won a gold at the Winter Olympics in Biathlon, bringing out as big a cheer as for one of Cibulkova’s rasping forehands. And perhaps that’s the moral of the story – a wintersports nation such as Slovakia had its attention towards Sochi, whereas Germany’s was very much on the tennis court in Bratislava.
Angelique Kerber (GER) - 09/02/2014
Captain Barbara Rittner (GER) - 09/02/2014
Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) - 09/02/2014
Captain Matej Liptak (SVK) - 09/02/2014