Corrado Barazzutti exuberated an air of confidence when he addressed the assembled media at Thursday’s Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Final pre-draw press conference in Reggio Calabria.
And well he might feel rather self assured. Sat next to the Italian captain were four Fed Cup stalwarts – Flavia Pennetta, Francesca Schiavone, Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani – who are all at the peak of their powers.
“Italian tennis history has its ups and downs. Sometimes the men are up but at the moment it is the women’s turn,” said Barazzutti, who, since taking charge in 2002, has presided over Italy’s most successful Fed Cup period in history.
“The players have the right spirit for this type of competition. When they play in Fed Cup, they give something more,” added Barazzutti.
The Italian captain might have a point.
Take Schiavone, for example. In the semifinals, she came from a set down to defeat Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova, who went on to be crowned Roland Garros champion a month later.
Roberta Vinci, meanwhile, has never lost a Fed Cup doubles rubber. And let’s not forget Pennetta, Italy’s highest-ranked player, who recently became her country’s first female to ever reach the world’s top 10.
“When they play, they don’t play for themselves, they play for their country, for Italy. That makes the difference,” enthused Barazzutti.
The added bonus for the Italians – although they won’t be taking it for granted – is that the American team is short of its best two players; namely, Venus and Serena Williams.
“The fact that the Williams sisters aren’t here won’t change anything. We will be concentrating on the players that are here, not the players that aren’t here,” said Barazzutti, insisting that Italy is ready for the job in hand.
And who would argue with him? Italy has never previously defeated USA in nine attempts but will go into this tie as clear favourite. The scene is set. Can the Italians produce the goods?