From the perspective that the USA Fed Cup teams’ efforts have come to a conclusion for the 2013 season, their 3-2 victory over Sweden in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie had a bittersweet undertone.
Thrilled to assure their place in the 2014 Fed Cup World Group, US captain Mary Joe Fernandez bemoaned that there would be a long wait until the next time she’d assemble a team.
“We were talking about it. We have to wait ten months to play again,” Fernandez said. “That’s the hardest thing about Fed Cup and even Davis Cup, the scheduling and how long it takes between the ties. You start building a chemistry with the team and a lot of bonding and you push each other, and it’s fun. We don’t get that very often.”
Although looking ahead is all the way to next year, a look back at the weekend would certainly create joy for the Americans.
As it turned out, the weekend was another great example of why the Williams sisters have driven the women’s game for over a decade now.
World No. 1 Serena Williams improved her Fed Cup record to an impressive 10-0 in singles - she’s also won all three doubles matches she’s played in the internationally acclaimed team competition.
On Saturday, Serena Williams came to the court after a lengthy rain delay with the US trailing Sweden 0-1 after the 54th-ranked Sofia Arvidsson upset 16th-ranked Sloane Stephens 64 46 61. Serena quickly evened the score with a 62 62 win over 66th-ranked Johanna Larsson.
On Sunday, Williams returned to the court to give the Americans a 2-1 lead with a swift 62 61 win over Arvidsson.
“It always feels good to play for your country and to win,” Serena Williams said.
This was where the second day took its fateful twist when Fernandez elected to make a switch to the line-up. Instead of sticking with ranking hierarchy and playing Stephens, she determined the 21st-ranked Venus Williams’ status as a former No. 1 and seven-time Grand Slam champion would serve the team better.
That move came across as genius when Venus Williams came through with the 63 75 win to secure the play-off win at 3-1. She also improved her personal Fed Cup record to 15-2 in singles.
The fact that three of the four American team members were sporting injuries - Venus Williams a lumbar strain, Serena Williams a right foot strain, and Varvara Lepchenko a left calf strain - causing the USA to default the doubles point to Sweden was of little concern.
Team spirit was the driving factor and Fernandez managed to make some crucial decisions and keep everybody feeling an integral part of the team.
“Great team members this week,” Fernandez said. “They all knew they could all play and they could all support. Everybody this morning was ready to play.”
As for the Swedes, they all went home feeling more than comfortable with the strong effort they put forth in Delray Beach, and ready to take on next year’s challenge in World Group II action. And their captain, Lars-Anders Wahlgren only had praise to offer for his players.
“Johanna had an unbelievable tough weekend Saturday, Sunday, playing the world No. 1 and former world No. 1,” Wahlgren said. “It’s the best experience you can ever have, but a very, very tough challenge for her. She can keep her head up and be very proud of herself and also go back home with a lot of experience to use for the rest of the year.
“Same for Sofia. She did an unbelievable match beating No. 16 in the world. She lost today against No. 1. I think it was definitely great experience for our girls, and they took a lot of knowledge of this weekend.”