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21 April 2013

Blog: Courting Chrissie


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Photo: Susan MullaneChris Evert (USA)

By Sandra Harwitt in Delray Beach

Back when tennis legend Chris Evert played Fed Cup, the players didn’t receive any kind of trophy to acknowledge their achievements.

Nowadays, the ITF is working to honour past Fed Cup champions by rewarding them with a replica Fed Cup trophy, which the players now receive.

On Sunday, it was Evert’s turn to be feted, which took place following the first match of the day between Serena Williams and Sofia Arvidsson.

Evert was a Fed Cup stalwart. She competed in 42 Fed Cup ties and posted an overall 57-4 winning record in the competition. Evert helped the USA to eight Fed Cup titles in 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1986 and 1989.

And if that isn’t impressive how about the fact that she posted the longest winning streak in singles matches, going undefeated between 1977 and 1986.

“It’s very meaningful,” said Evert, after receiving the trophy. “It was a big part of my career representing the United States. I got to play with great players like Martina Navratilova, Pam Shriver, and Tracy Austin.”

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The power of the bench

By Russell Fuller in Moscow

There is a saying in sport that a team is only as strong as its bench, and Russia must be wishing that their star-studded support team were all back in the prime of their tennis lives - and in one case, willing to switch nationality.

There is Larisa Savchenko, the former Grand Slam doubles champion, who represented the Soviet Union in more Fed Cup ties than any other Russian has since; Elena Likhovtseva, who clocked up 26 wins in a nine year period; and Anastasia Myskina, who triggered a fabulous decade for women's tennis in Russia by winning at Roland Garros in 2004.

Myskina’s put a burgeoning TV presenting career on hold to spend a bit more time working with Ekaterina Makarova, and being at home to raise her three small sons. Why, she wonders, when they have ten toy cars to choose from, do they all want to play with the same one?

Martina Hingis is also here in Moscow as the new coach of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The two finally got together after Miami, and promptly won their first tournament as a proper coaching-player couple in Monterrey.

Gerald Bremond had been coaching Pavlyuchenkova (but left to work with Marion Bartoli, in what appears to be one of the briefest relationships of all time). The 21-year-old Pavlyuchenkova’s been telling me that having a coach who knows how a woman thinks could be an advantage. She reckons they are cut from the same cloth, and clearly Hingis' five Grand Slam titles will allow her to tap in to a rich seam of experience.

So, could the dream team beat the real team? They would have been a match for anyone ten years ago, but now seem happy playing the role of coach, cheerleader and confidante.

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Captain switch in the works

By Clive White in Besancon

“The girls were really nice to me and dressed up so nice, too,” remarked Dias Doskarayev, displaying suitable gratitude for being allowed to accompany such a bevvy of beauties as the Kazakhstan Fed Cup team to the official dinner at Besancon in France.

One hopes the country’s Davis Cup captain made the most of it because after this weekend it will back to dining with the less shapely likes of Messrs Kukushkin, Golubev and Korolev.

It’s not because he didn’t do a fine job with the girls – on the contrary – but there is a desire in the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation to put a woman in charge and that woman is likely to be the former doubles player Irina Selyutina. She was born in Kazakhstan and seems a natural choice.

She accompanied the team to France in the role of head coach this weekend to run the rule over the players and on her return to Zimbabwe - where she and her husband, doubles specialist Wayne Black, now live – will produce a report on how she believes she can take the team forward. “Basically, I’m going to go home and think about it and produce a suggestion plan,” she said, “And if it suits them and me then it will happen.”

Since she retired 10 years ago she has worked mainly with younger players, but is excited about the opportunity to operate again at the highest level. She said the adrenalin has been pumping again.

“I’ve told the players, ‘I so believe in you guys, you’ve got all the shots, you’ve just got to believe in yourselves more’,” she said. “There’s not much to improve but it could make a big difference.”

Selyutina was an outstanding junior, winning the Wimbledon and French Open doubles titles with Cara Black, who is now her sister-in-law. She won three WTA Tour doubles titles and also had considerable success on the ITF circuit.

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Building a sports town one event at a time

By Stuart Fraser in Koksiijde

Koksijde may not be recognisable to many sporting fans but that will all change soon if the local mayor’s plans come to fruition.

The small Belgian town, located in the Flemish province of West Flanders on the North Sea coast, played host to Fed Cup tennis for the first time this weekend, a major coup for mayor Marc Vanden Bussche in his hopes to establish Koksijde on the sporting map.

At a cost of 3.2 million Euros, the local tennis club’s indoor facility was completed just last year and fully passed its first major test with flying colours as it held the World Group II play-off between Belgium and Poland.

Vanden Bussche said: “It is amazing for us and we are very proud. We are a town of only 22,000 inhabitants and the club has 700 members.

“We have invested a lot in this infrastructure and we are very pleased that it has been used for a top event and proud that we have been chosen by the tennis federation.”

Vanden Bussche has lofty sporting ambitions for the town. Just last month, Koksijde saw British cyclist Mark Cavendish sprint to victory in the second stage of the Driedaagse Van De Panne race and the mayor now hopes to one day host golf’s European Tour.

He said: “We are a very sporty town. We have a nine-hole golf course which by the end of next year will have 27 holes, including a Championship course, and we are now dreaming to have the top players coming to Belgium.”

With cycling a sport which is very popular in Belgium, could the mayor envisage Sir Bradley Wiggins, Olympic gold medallist and last year’s Tour de France winner, coming to town one day? He shook his head and simply replied: “We have no mountains.”

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Rain delay activities

By Jeff Kavanaugh in Chiasso

Ever wondered how players spend a rainy day off the court?

Well, the Swiss team, who were due to take on Australia in a Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie before heavy rain washed out the day’s play at the Tennis Club Chiasso on Saturday, had a few fun things lined up to keep themselves occupied.

First up was a game of soccer on an indoor court at the tennis club, followed by a few hands of a Swiss card game called “Gaemsch”, explained player Amra Sadikovic.

“There’s always two against two, so you play in a team, and it’s a funny game,” she said.

Asked if she was any good at soccer, the 23-year-old believed she was, saying her strength lay in her attacking skills. As for who in the team was best at cards, Sadikovic was quick to employ some of the diplomacy her compatriots are famous for, saying: “We’re all good.”

To round off the day, the team were planning to relax with a bit of retail therapy. “There’s a shopping mall just next to the hotel,” she said with a big smile on her face. “For sure we’re going to go out for a shop.”

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