STUTTGART, GERMANY: The big question leading into this weekend’s match-up between Germany and Australia at Fed Cup by BNP Baripas is whether the so-called underdogs will run away with a place in the elite eight-nation World Group.
On paper, Germany is the stronger team in its face-off with Australia. Tennis tournaments are exciting, however, because they leave plenty of room for surprise masterstrokes. Fans assembling this weekend at the Porsche-Arena in Stuttgart will get to see three top 20 players take to the court for Germany, as well as Australia’s ace, World No. 5 Samantha Stosur.
Australia beat Switzerland in the World Group II first round in February, and Germany lost in its first round World Group match-up against the Czech Republic. So the Germans are now fighting to hold onto their standing, whilst Australia looks to return to the World Group level for the first time in two years.
The draw results have Germany’s Angelique Kerber (No. 14) and Australia’s Samantha Stosur (5) facing off at noon, followed by Julia Goerges (16) for the Germans and Jarmila Gajdosova (50) for the green and gold.
On Sunday, the lineup will see Goerges play Stosur at noon, followed by Kerber versus Gajdosova. Germany decided not to play their top seeded player, Andrea Petkovic (11), in the singles matches, opting instead to have her play doubles on Sunday. The doubles match will have her and Anna-Lena Groenefeld (340) for Germany playing Casey Dellacqua (106) and Stosur for Australia.
Captains are cautiously confident
Team captains David Taylor for Australia and Barbara Rittner for Germany had nothing but kind words for their opponents.
Taylor spoke of the fact that his team is contesting one of the strongest in the world. “[The Germans] have fantastic depth. There aren’t many teams … that could boast that many players in the top 20.”
Stosur is Taylor’s strongest player, and with her the Australians are in with a chance. “Thanks to the Fed Cup format, with the fact that only two players can play, I think we have a great chance. But I think we are the underdogs,” Taylor said.
He is pleased to see Stosur take to the court first. “I think we really need to be at least one-all at the end of the first day to have a chance to win.”
Australia hasn’t won the Fed Cup since 1974, so a win here in Stuttgart would be a step in the right direction, and it would be well received back home.
“We’re a massive tennis nation. And if we could be back into the top 8 nations of the world, it would be very exciting for our country,” he said.
Germany’s captain Rittner also focused on how tough a tie they have ahead of them. “I think the chances are 50-50,” she said. “Australia has a great team. Germany also has a great team, and in the end we will see who is better at the weekend. We expect a very, very close tie.”
Rittner hopes the home-court advantage will play to their favour. “We are really happy to be back [in Stuttgart] and hopefully the crowd will help us in the end.”
Rittner also discussed her decision not to play Petkovic in singles. “She’s 100 per cent fit, but I have two players … who have played some really great tennis in recent months. They really deserve to play, and they are in the match rhythm.”
Petkovic, for her part, seemed to understand. “I’ll be doing my best on the bench and cheering them on,” she said, noting that she’s looking forward to playing on Sunday.
‘Underdogs’ have a lethal weapon in Stosur
The 2011 US Open champ Samantha Stosur looked calm and confident during Friday’s draw. Of course, she has a great deal to feel confident about.
Known as a talented and versatile player, with killer forehands from anywhere on the court, Stosur is dangerous to any opponent. And she is particularly comfortable on Stuttgart’s clay courts.
“I hope to use my experience on clay to a bit of an advantage,” Stosur said. “I enjoy playing on this surface. I’ve had good experience playing on this court in the last couple of years.”
Stosur will first meet Germany’s Angelique Kerber on the court. Kerber was the only one to win a match for her team in the first Fed Cup round, and her confidence has been boosted by her win in Copenhagen.
Whilst confident, Stosur did acknowledge the toughness of the matches ahead, particularly against Kerber on Saturday. “She’s one of those players you don’t necessarily always play against, but she’s had a very good last eight months since the US Open. She’s gotten better and better. And I certainly have to expect a tough one.”
Kerber knows she’s facing a lot of pressure heading into tomorrow’s match. “I know I need to get my best tennis out there and play 100 per cent in order to beat her. I’m looking forward to it,” she said.
The full draw is as follows:
R1: Angelique Kerber (GER) v Samantha Stosur (AUS)
R2: Julia Goerges (GER) v Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS)
R3: Julia Goerges (GER) v Samantha Stosur (AUS)
R4: Angelique Kerber (GER) v Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS)
R5: Anna-Lena Groenefeld / Andrea Petkovic (GER) v Casey Dellacqua / Sam Stosur (AUS)
Julia Goerges (GER) - 20/04/2012
Angelique Kerber (GER) - 20/04/2012
Andrea Petkovic (GER) - 20/04/2012
Captain Barbara Rittner (GER)
Sam Stosur (AUS) - 20/04/2012
Captain David Taylor (AUS) - 20/04/2012