Fed Cup Final starts in



22 April 2010

France salvages World Group status



  • Steve Bierley

French team

The French banner read: "The Fed Cup - blue, white, and red." Understandable, as France is the only nation to have played every year in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group since the women's team event was inaugurated in 1963.

And they will be there again next year after coming back from 2-1 down to defeat Germany 3-2 in their World Group play-off in Frankfurt.

After Andrea Petkovic had won her second singles, beating the French No. 1 Aravane Rezai 61 76 in Sunday's opening singles, it appeared the Bosnian-born German was poised to be the heroine of the weekend, but instead she ended the doubles sobbing on the shoulder of her team captain, Barbara Rittner.

Petkovic's brilliance simply not enough

It was impossible not to feel sorry for her, but the truth was that in the deciding doubles Julie Coin and Alize Cornet played like a team, while Petkovic and Kristina Barrois looked as if they had never met.

Rittner had little choice but to call on Petkovic for a third match in two days, while Barrois simply played poorly, lacking the emotion and energy that Cornet radiated from the minute the doubles began, the French pair winning comfortably 63 61.

The French also owed much to Pauline Parmentier who had been rather severely beaten by Petkovic on Saturday, but came back spiritedly against Julia Goerges in the fourth and final singles, winning 76 64 to square the tie. She served particularly well against Goerges, who despite having a powerful forehand and a reasonable serve could not match the Frenchwoman's movement.

It was always going to be close, and the German team who have yo-yoed in and out of the World Group had felt, even without the injured Sabine Lisicki and Anna-Lena Groenefeld, both with the team, but both on crutches, that they stood a real chance of ending France's 48-year reign in the World Group, the only country never to have lost its place.

It was not to be, simply because they could not quite provide the back up for the excellent Petkovic who was understandably full of the joys after defeating the erratic Rezai, only to see her and her team's world fall apart in the one-sided doubles. And all on Rittner's birthday. It was too cruel.

Rezai a future asset for the team

The French quartet danced around the clay court at the end, cheered by a group of 50 or so French supporters who had managed to keep the faith and were ultimately rewarded by Nicolas Escude's team. The tricolor was raised high, with the German crowd trailing away with shrugs and disappointed faces.

It had all seemed so different when Petkovic had put Germany 2-1 ahead. Rezai, making her Fed Cup debut, has a natural inclination to hit the ball with everything she has, and when she misses she tends to miss by a considerable amount. This makes it tough for any team captain.

Against Tatjana Malek, under Escude's firm words, she had reigned herself in a little and overcome an opening set loss. Against the much more talented Petkovic there was no such turnaround, though that win against Malek in the end proved crucial. The French would surely not have come back from 0-2 down.

Rezai had not previously seen eye to eye with the French Federation, wanting her coach to be at the Fed Cup ties, which is not allowed. Having changed her mind she will surely be a big plus for her team next year, while Germany now know that in Petkovic they have a player to build their team around.

The one question was her mental strength and her victory over Rezai answered that. She is currently ranked just inside the world Top 50, and is surely set to rise, with the potential to make the Top 20. It was a thrilling tie and one the French deserved to win for their greater all round strength. But it was a close run thing.

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GER Flag Germany v France FRA Flag 24 Apr 2010 - 25 Apr 2010 View details

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  • More photos

    • French teamAndrea Petkovic (GER)
    • Andrea Petkovic (GER)Andrea Petkovic (GER)
    • Andrea Petkovic and captain Barbara Rittner (GER)France Fed Cup team
    • German team benchAndrea Petkovic (GER)
    • Nicolas Escude (FRA)Barbara Rittner and German doubles team
    • Alize Cornet (FRA)Andrea Petkovic and Kristina Barrois (GER)
    • Julie Coin and Alize Cornet (FRA)Julie Coin and Alize Cornet (FRA)
    • Julie Coin and Alize Cornet (FRA)Pauline Parmentier (FRA)
    • Julia Goerges (GER)Pauline Parmentier (FRA)
    • Pauline Parmentier (FRA)Alize Cornet (FRA)
    • Andrea Petkovic and Kristina Barrois (GER)Andrea Petkovic and Tatjana Malek (GER)
    • Captain Nicolas Escude and Pauline Parmentier (FRA)French fans
    • Pauline Parmentier (FRA)Julia Goerges (GER)
    • Julia Goerges (GER)

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