FRIBOURG, SWITZERLAND: Well, it was a win to Australia in the end but not in the manner they had imagined. If tennis matches were decided by panels – as they sometimes are in English football when it has only half the snow there is here in picturesque Fribourg – they would have predicted a whitewash for the Aussies.
Fortunately, real live sport isn’t decided by facts and statistics: it has numerous unexpected factors weaved into it and Switzerland, despite the comparative inexperience of its team, put up a tremendous fight, very nearly taking this World Group II tie to a fifth and final rubber. Roger Federer, who is due to play at this same Forum Fribourg venue next week in a Davis Cup World Group tie against United States, would have been proud of them.
In fact, the 4-1 win flattered Samantha Stosur and her teammates somewhat. Not Stosur so much, who on day two looked more like the player we have come to know and who won a Grand Slam only five months ago. She beat the Swiss No. 1 Stefanie Voegele with a minimum of fuss 63 62 to give Australia a 2-1 lead.
It was then that Christiane Jolissaint, the Swiss captain, threw the Aussies a bit of a curve ball. The previous evening she had hinted that Australia might bring in Jelena Dokic for Jarmila Gajdosova in the second of the reverse singles after the latter’s bruising defeat to Voegele on the opening day.
As it turned out, the Aussies were as per draw while Jolissaint surprised everyone by promoting their nominal No. 3 Amra Sadikovic ahead of the more experienced but recently inactive Timea Bacsinszky and it very nearly proved a master stroke. One set in it didn’t though.
Sadikovic was comprehensively second best then, but after that the 22-year-old was in the mix right up until the bitter end of her 63 36 86 defeat. It represented a pleasing change of fortune for Gajdosova, who had lost the deciding set in her rubber 8-6 the day before.
David Taylor, the Australian captain, readily accepted how close the match was. “At 6-6 it could really have gone either way,” he admitted.
Ranked No. 219, Sadikovic obviously plays her tennis at a much lower level than the world No. 40 Gajdosova. However, she won two finals, in Toronto and Vendryne in Czech Republic, towards the back end of last year and obviously Jolissaint felt she could perhaps carry that winning habit to a higher level and she very nearly did.
The turning point, even if it ultimately led to defeat, came early in the second set when she broke back to surprise her opponent. Naturally, Gajdosova had her own view on that.
“Surprised? Well, I was 63 2-0 up and serving so it should never have got to that in the first place,” she said, “But then if you give her a chance – and the crowd got into it – she has nothing to lose and she starts swinging. I started playing a bit passively which gives her more chance to keep swinging.”
Before very long Sadikovic - who seemed to be growing up on court before our very eyes - was giving it the “Come on” as frequently and loudly as Lleyton Hewitt ever did. ‘Hey, who’s supposed to be the Australian around here,’ Gajdosova must have thought to herself.
It came as no surprise when Sadikovic took the second set. Gajdosova’s game was never consistent enough to have complete belief in her – her style doesn’t allow for it. She is nothing if not exciting because she goes for her shots win or lose. But she kept her nose in front in the deciding set and refused to lose heart even when a match point – not to mention a tie-clinching point - came and went in the 12th game and two more in the final game. Eventually a forehand winner did for her opponent.
“I fought my heart out yesterday and so I did today,” she said. “I was going to be there even if it took five hours.”
The Swiss bench was far more animated throughout than their counterparts, who probably couldn’t believe the predicament they found themselves in, and got fully behind their girl. When defeat eventually came upon her she didn’t want for commiseration, which was good to see.
"I know she's going to go home with terrible thoughts about the two smashes she missed [at 6-6 and 7-6 in the last set]," said Jolissaint. "I told her that she should just be happy to know that she can beat girls who are about 30 or 40 in the WTA rankings."
Although it didn't now affect the outcome of the tie, the Aussies extended their victory to 4-1 over the hosts, as Jelena Dokic teamed with Casey Dellacqua to beat Belinda Bencic and Sadikovic 75 64.
Captain Christiane Jolissaint (SUI) - 05/02/2012
Captain David Taylor (AUS) - 05/02/2012
Samantha Stosur (AUS) - 05/02/2012
Stefanie Voegele (SUI) - 05/02/2012