After consecutive losses against Czech Republic and Australia last year which saw Germany relegated, captain Barbara Rittner must have thought her luck was out when her side were drawn away to Amelie Mauresmo’s France in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II.
As a player, one of Rittner’s best victories was a three-set victory over Mauresmo on the grass of 's-Hertogenbosch in 2003. It may be going a bit far to say that Germany’s 3-1 victory in Limoges this weekend is one of Rittner’s best victories as a captain, but the manner in which her side overcame a potentially tricky obstacle will provide a lot of satisfaction.
With the tie clinched after three straight sets victories, it is tempting to think that it was all too easy for Germany in the end but that is far from the case. Sabine Lisicki and Julia Goerges were made to work hard for their victories on Saturday over Pauline Parmentier and Kristina Mladenovic, respectively. Parmentier also threatened in the opening set against Goerges on Sunday but in the end the gap of 57 places in the rankings showed as the German clinched the tie.
It was interesting that Goerges and Rittner both used the term ‘elevator’ when describing what it is like for their team to be back in the World Group play-offs once again. This is the eleventh consecutive year that Germany have been at this stage.
“It’s funny, we are like an elevator team going up and down all the time,” said Rittner. “Hopefully we stay in the rhythm and we go up this year. We have to wait and see for the draw on Wednesday but I am looking forward to the match in April for sure.”
When you consider that Germany were missing world No. 6 Angelique Kerber, who was forced to withdraw from the tie with a back injury, and Andrea Petkovic, who is currently out with a knee injury, then the result this weekend is even more impressive. There clearly is potential for Germany to go far in this competition if all are fit.
“We actually have five potential top 20 players and three of them didn’t play this weekend and we could still manage and play really well and beat France,” said Rittner. “I am confident for the future and I just hope that there comes a time and a day when everyone is healthy and I have a tough choice.”
In her first tie in charge, Mauresmo’s task was made a lot more difficult when, after returning to the France team fold for the first time in more than eight years, world No. 10 Marion Bartoli was forced to pull out through flu. Mauresmo’s team put up a valiant effort but it was not enough. Still, the former world No. 1 enjoyed the experience on the bench as a captain for the first time.
“It was exciting, it was disappointing, it was exhilarating at some points,” said Mauresmo. “A lot of different emotions but it was intense and tiring. I enjoyed it overall but the result was tough.”
Back in April’s World Group II play-offs and having to try and avoid relegation to the Europe/Africa zone for the second year in a row, it must seem like an eternity ago that Mauresmo won the Fed Cup with France in 2003. Does the 33-year-old feel that France, as a nation with a proud tennis history, should be competing at a higher level?
“I would hope so for the future, but right now we have to see that with the players we have right now, it’s tough,” she said. “Marion can be a big asset for this team so she will be [available] in April and hopefully she will be fit and ready to play to help us stay in World Group II and then maybe in the future [we will] see a little bit further.”
Mauresmo will be keeping her fingers crossed for the luck of Wednesday’s draw to be on her side. “The draw to take Germany in the first round of World Group II is a really tough draw so maybe we will be a little bit more lucky for this one,” she said.