CHARLEROI, BELGIUM: Serbia go seeking a first win in the Fed Cup BNP Paribas World Group but standing in their path will be a Belgium team eager to gift their new captain, Ann Devries, the perfect start.
Belgium, though, are a team in transition. Devries took over from Sabine Appelmans last October and leads a side without star player Kim Clijsters.
Devries said: “Of course our chances would have been better if Kim would’ve played for us but that’s not the case. Then again I think Yanina (Wickmayer) and Kirsten (Flipkens) have played really well in Fed Cup matches in the past. They really seem to play better when they play for their country.”
For Belgium to stand a chance of denying Serbia a famous win, much will depend on Wickmayer, ranked at No. 29 in the world. The second half of 2011 was disrupted by injury but – for a player who has been as a high as No. 12 – she feels the good times are just around the corner.
Wickmayer said: “I’ve had some good matches and less good matches, which is normal when coming back from injury, but I’ve had a very positive week and am gaining confidence again in my strokes and my game. I’m really motivated for the weekend and will give everything I have inside of me to win.”
The Belgian will face Bojana Jovanovski in Saturday’s second singles rubber, after former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic tackles Flipkens. Jovanovski steps up due to the absence of Ana Ivanovic from the team. The 20-year-old is aware that history could be made for Serbia this weekend and insists the team is focused.
She said: “We will go and fight because we are Serbian and have a Serbian mentality.”
As Jovanovski spoke those words, you could see the steely determination in her eyes, enough to send a chill down the spine. The Serbian women have watched with pride as their male counterparts have savoured success in Davis Cup. At the same time, they do not want to be left behind and see this weekend as a real opportunity.
This is only Serbia’s second appearance in the top tier of Fed Cup. Their only previous appearance ended in heartbreak in 2010, when they lost the deciding doubles rubber to Russia in Belgrade.
Jankovic commented: “I think there’s a lot on the line for us. It’s our second time to be in the World Group and it would be really nice to go to the semifinals. I believe we have a good team with great potential and we deserve to be here and to go even further.”
Jankovic has been playing Fed Cup since 2001, the year that Belgium lifted the famous trophy. In 11 years, the Serbian ace has experienced many highs within the game. Missing from the CV is a decent run in Fed Cup, which she will be looking to put right over the next few days.
One of the chair umpires in Charleroi is Pascal Maria, who oversaw the marathon men’s final at the Australian Open last weekend. A little bleary-eyed, the Frenchman had a brief stop-off at home, switched from summer to winter clothing, and is now busying himself for the tie ahead.
He smiled: “I’m a bit tired but probably not as much as the players were. It is our life and we have to cope with the jet lag and the different climates. It was 35 degrees in Melbourne... and just a little bit colder here in Charleroi.”
The full draw is listed below.
R1: Flipkens (BEL) v Jankovic (SRB)
R2: Wickmayer (BEL) v Jovanovski (SRB)
R3: Wickmayer (BEL) v Jankovic (SRB)
R4: Flipkens (BEL) v Jovanovski (SRB)
R5: Hendler / Van Uytvanck (BEL) v Jankovic / Krunic (SRB)
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Captain Ann Devries (BEL) - 03/02/2012
Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) - 03/02/2012
Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) - 03/02/2012
Jelena Jankovic (SRB) - 03/02/2012
Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) - 03/02/2012
Captain Dejan Vranes (SRB) - 03/02/2012