STUTTGART, GERMANY: German fans will be weeping into their strudel tonight following a devastating start at the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off in Stuttgart. Germany needs to beat Australia this weekend in order to hold onto its place in the elite 8-nation World Group competition. So far, it’s not looking good for Deutschland. Australia is up by two.
Most expected Samantha Stosur, the world No.5, to win her match today against Angelique Kerber, but Australia was not necessarily expecting Jarmila Gajdosova to dismiss Germany’s Julia Goerges, ranked 34 places above her.
Stosur takes command
Sam Stosur took to the court against Germany’s Angelique Kerber, clinching the first crucial point for the green and gold. She was the favourite before the match as the higher-ranked player, but Kerber played her heart out and provided fans with a few nail-biting moments.
Whilst Stosur took an early lead, the crowd seemed to boost Kerber’s spirits. After falling behind three games in the first set, Kerber found her momentum and fought back to even the score. At four games all, you could almost see Kerber’s confidence grow as the crowd roared.
Stosur then hit a few beyond the baseline, and there was a brief moment there when German fans might have thought Kerber would take the lead. The 2011 US Open champion, however, maintained her composure, reflected on her earlier lead, and pushed through, pushing the set to five-all and then a tiebreak.
Kerber offered up aces and attacked Stosur’s backhand, and every point earned made the crowd go wild.
Stosur proved the stronger player, however, and easily took the first set in the tiebreak. She used that momentum to open strong in the second set, taking the first two games before Kerber challenged once again by attacking her opponent’s backhand.
The crowds were rewarded with some great tennis as the ladies matched up at three-all in the second set. Kerber then pulled ahead for the first and only time in the match, 4-3. German fans began to dance with their flags. Their jubilation was short-lived when Stosur proved why she’s the higher-ranked player. Australia’s top player regained her momentum and then the lead, taking the second set.
Stosur said afterwards that she had expected Kerber to offer a tough match. “The crowd was behind her and were trying to pump her up … I wasn’t expecting an easy one.”
The ‘underdogs’ take the lead
So if German fans were disappointed by Kerber’s loss, they were about to be dealt a severe blow by Australia’s Jarmila Gajdosova. Ranked fiftieth in the world, Gajdosova was not expected to beat Germany’s Julia Goerges.
Goerges never seemed to find her momentum, and she lost in two sets to the hard-hitting Gajdosova. Captain Taylor remarked on the fact that Goerges looked tight as she started to play, never really finding her rhythm.
Some of Goerges’ trouble was no doubt down to nerves, heading into the second tie down one after Stosur’s win. According to Taylor, it wasn’t just nerves. “[Gajdosova] controlled the speed of the ball, making it really uncomfortable for Goerges. Jarka played a great game. Julia didn’t lose just because of nerves.”
Goerges, for her part, admitted that she hadn’t been feeling well in recent days, but that she had given it her all on the court. “Jarka played a great match today. She’s a very good player, and I knew it was going to be tough. But I couldn’t really play my game, which was a little bit sad and made me a bit disappointed.”
During the press conference, Captain Taylor joked that he was thrilled to not be in the German captain’s shoes heading into tomorrow. “If I was their coach, I probably wouldn’t sleep tonight,” he said.
The German captain, Barbara Rittner, looked saddened by today’s events, noting that “our chances for tomorrow have obviously shrunk.” She declined to comment on whether she will substitute Goerges or Kerber tomorrow with Andrea Petkovic, who was slotted to play doubles.
Whether Rittner gets any sleep tonight will probably remain a mystery, but we will learn about her decisions regarding play early tomorrow. As Goerges said following her loss: “Tomorrow’s a new day.”
Germany is regrouping with massages for the whole team, whilst the Australians are heading out for a nice steak dinner at the nearby Porsche museum.
Time will tell whether Germany can make tomorrow their day.
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Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS) - 21/04/2012
Julia Goerges (GER) - 21/04/2012
Captain Barbara Rittner (GER) - 21/04/2012
Sam Stosur (AUS) - 21/04/2012
Captain David Taylor (AUS) - 21/04/2012