Fed Cup Final starts in



22 April 2012


Photo: Takeo TanumaKimiko Date-Krumm (JPN)

Jack Gallagher in Tokyo

Saturday's 61 64 victory over Belgium's Tamaryn Hendler in the World Group play-offs marked a homecoming of sorts for Japan's Kimiko Date-Krumm.

It was on the same hardcourt at Tokyo's Ariake Coliseum where, 16 years earlier, she enjoyed perhaps the finest triumph of her professional career.

Known as Kimiko Date at that time, the 25-year-old star was in what would then be her final season before a nearly 12-year retirement.

Japan hosted Germany in April 1996 in a World Group tie. The Germans were led by Steffi Graf, who at the time had won 18 of her 22 Grand Slam events.

Date and Graf headed into a deciding third set in their reverse singles match, and that set would turn out to be one of the greatest in the history of Japanese tennis, as the Kyoto native would prevail 12-10 in a marathon.

Date's victory energised the Japanese squad, which then won the doubles to take the tie 3-2 as they booked a place in the World Group semifinals for the first and only time.

Graf would go on to win the French, Wimbledon and US Open titles in the ensuing months. In the semifinals at Wimbledon, Graf got a measure of revenge by prevailing over Date in a tense three-set match.

In 2008, near the 12th anniversary of the historic triumph, Date and Graf participated in an exhibition match at Ariake to commemorate the event.

Date won 62 63 and was encouraged by her former rival to consider going back to the WTA Tour. Three weeks later, at the age of 37, Date announced she would indeed return to the pro tour.

And this weekend the 41-year-old helped Japan to a 4-1 victor over Belgium to earn a spot in the 2013 World Group.

Fatherly pride

By Adam Bates in Ostrava

With the defending Fed Cup champions, Czech Republic, playing their first home tie in over two years, the atmosphere was always going to be electric. 

But one man just wanted to make sure. 

That man was Jiri Kvitova, the father of world No. 3 Petra Kvitova, who was so excited about a tie being played just 30 minutes away from their home town of Fulnek that he snapped up around 100 tickets. 

Petra fans

I went to speak to a few lucky recipients ahead of the third rubber between Kvitova and Schiavone, and before even a ball had been struck they were bouncing in their seats in excitement. Despite my Czech not being good enough to hold a conversation, one lady was able to tell me "We're friends of Jiri. Petra - No.1."

Petra said, "They really like tennis and they’re big fans of me and the Czech girls. It is special to play so close to my home.”

The vibrant atmosphere they’ve helped generate here in Ostrava has left an impression on Czech captain, Petr Pala, too. He said, “This is the best atmosphere we’ve ever played in in Fed Cup. It’s absolutely great. It’s one of the keys. It helps a lot.”

It’s the kind of experience only Fed Cup can deliver for Kvitova and it’ll be a weekend that will last long in her memory.

PinocchioPinocchio power

By Stuart Fraser in Boras

The chat at the draw ceremony in Boras on Friday, where Sweden was hosting Great Britain in the World Group II play-offs, was not just about the weekend’s tennis. 

First-time visitors to the small town, around 45 minutes east of Gothenburg, have been intrigued by what they found just down the road from the Borashallen: a nine metre tall bronze statue of the famous fictional character, Pinocchio.

The statue, designed by American pop artist Jim Dine in memory of Swedish Illustrator Gustaf Tenggren, was commissioned by town officials, backed by private donors, at a cost of $1.5 million, and after a long journey from Seattle to Boras, it was unveiled in May 2008.

Despite the initial concerns from some locals who felt that it was a bit of a monstrosity, there is no doubt that it has captured the attention and provided a good photograph for the players, officials, media and supporters in Boras.

For a fairly small place, Boras has a bit of history. 

The Beatles played the Borashallen in 1963, the early days of ‘Beatlemania’, to a capacity crowd of 2,500 – and there was a touch of nostalgia when the British team walked out for the opening ceremony yesterday and briefly performed some dance moves on court to ‘Twist and Shout’.

The Borashallen also once played host to the great American basketball player Magic Johnson, who bought the local team M7 in 1998 and even turned out in a few games at the age of 40 to the delight of the locals.

And there could’ve been another memorable moment in Boras today, if only. Britain’s captain, Judy Murray - yes, she’s Andy’s mum - vowed to jump in the nearby River Viskan in celebration if her team could turn around their 0-2 start to the weekend. The cameras were likely ready, but Murray’s team just couldn’t get the job done.

Kangaroo hop

By Tracy Moran in Stuttgart

The Australian side brought a good luck charm to their tie against Germany in Stuttgart: a giant yellow and green blown-up kangaroo.

The charm sat courtside in the team's box and seems to have worked, as the Australians were 2-0 up at the end of the first day. Samantha Stosur got to sit next to the kangaroo following her win against Germany's Angelique Kerber, and she was smiling ear-to-ear next to the team mascot.

On Saturday night, the green-and-gold enjoyed dinner at the nearby Porsche museum, where they feasted on the "best steaks in town." Jarmila Gajdosova joked that she was looking forward to some good food. And she said she is really hoping for Sam to win early tomorrow so that she can have a relaxing fourth match.

No one knows whether it was the steaks that did the trick or perhaps it was their plastic good luck charm? But the Australians did a kangaroo hop to victory in Stuttgart.

Personal coaching

By Lee Goodall in Moscow

Every Fed Cup team comes with a supporting staff that includes a dedicated Fed Cup captain to guide the forces. Despite that being the case, be assured that the role of players’ personal coaches - whether on-site or watching back home on TV - shouldn’t be underestimated.

Jelena Jankovic is in Moscow with her brand new personal team – coach Zeljko Krajan and fitness trainer Dejan Vojnovic, who is a former Olympic sprinter for Croatia. The trio began their new adventure together here on Tuesday.

Ana Ivanovic, meanwhile, revealed she has been in close contact with her British coach Nigel Sears during her stay in the Russian capital. “We speak every day when I have a match,” the world No. 15 said. “He gives me tactics and a heads up, and then he tries to watch and then we chat afterwards.”

The pair began working together last summer and Sears has helped Ivanovic, a former world No. 1, to slowly climb back up the rankings. She reached the fourth round of the Australian Open in January and the semifinals recently in Indian Wells.

“I always had a lot of respect for him when he was working with Maria Kirilenko and Daniela Hantuchova,” said Ivanovic, of Sears. “I trained in London a few times and he helped set up some practice sessions.

“We had a few talks and I really felt he could be the one to help me get back to the top. He’s very experienced. From working [a lot] with girls, he has an understanding of our psychology which is a lot different to guys, and how to deal with our emotional ups and downs.”

Catching up with Kafelnikov

By Sandra Harwitt in Kharkiv

No sooner than I named my babushka doll keyring - a present from the official dinner Thursday night - after Yevgeny Kafelnikov then guess who turned up at the Fed Cup tie between USA and Ukraine? Yes, that’s right. The one and only, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, was in the house at the Superior Golf & Spa Resort in Kharkiv. His good friend, Yuri Sapronov, owns the resort and Kafelnikov promised to be here.

When I ran into “Kafel” he was sitting in the bar lobby with his computer and seemed busy at work even though it was after 10pm Saturday night. He wasn’t partaking of the normal bar offerings, but instead had a proper pot of tea that he kept pouring from as he worked away.

When I asked after his “little one” - his daughter, Aleysa - he laughed and said, “The little one isn’t little anymore, she’s 14. You know I’ve been off the tour for nine years now.”

Although Yevgeny is no longer all about tennis, he’s working on a new sporting career. A scratch golfer, Kafelnikov is planning to pursue golf with the hope of qualifying for his PGA European tour card in the near future.

Sporting in Switzerland

By Marco Keller in Yverdon-les-Bains

Fed Cup is not only a way for players to show off their talents during a weekend. It’s also an opportunity for the host city to shine in the spotlight.

This weekend’s Switzerland-Belarus tie was played in beautiful Yverdon-les-Bains. The city traditionally hosts a number of events every year for all age groups, but it lost some of its importance when their football club was relegated from the top flight division back in 2006.

Yverdon, however, hasn't gone away completely and their pride is the ladies’ football team that won the National Cup competition in 2010. They were the first women’s team from the French part of Switzerland to win the National Cup in more than three decades.

Thanks to the Fed Cup, Yverdon has now made a comeback on the big stage. The local authorities have done everything to give the Swiss hosts, their visitors from Belarus and all international guests a very warm welcome, which coincides with the opening of the Complexe Sportif des Isles.

This new, small, yet spacious and modern arena has fulfilled all the requirements of the tie except for one little issue - a light fell out on Saturday. Otherwise, it passed its maiden exam beautifully.

Dominique Faesch, regional tourism director, hopes for a positive effect for the city thanks to the new stadium which was baptized" with the Fed Cup win of the Swiss: "The image of the city can be transported into the whole world and there will also be more people coming to Yverdon, which will help our hotel industry.”

There will be other sports event in the foreseeable future in the same complex: a badminton tournament in October and a national Taekwondo championship in November.

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    Sandra Harwitt

    Sandra, an American sportswriter for longer than she's willing to admit, has travelled the world to cover tennis for major publications, such as ESPN.com, The Miami Herald and Associated Press. Her biggest problem of late is managing to pack worldwide purchases into suitcases and still meet the airline weight restrictions.




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