STUTTGART, GERMANY: Ana Ivanovic’s victory over Mona Barthel and Angelique Kerber’s conquest over Bojana Jovanovski on day one of the World Group play-offs left both Germany and Serbia with an equal chance of climbing into the top tier.
Ana Ivanovic was first up against Angelique Kerber in the first game of the day and first to serve, broken immediately by Kerber, showing the Serbian she meant business. Kerber then stormed ahead and tried to make headway but the world No. 17 wasn’t going to buckle, fighting back to 3-3 and moving ahead like a stealth bomber to take the first set 75, before Kerber realised what had happened.
By the second set, Kerber was looking nervous as Ivanovic had her moving round the court. A double fault by Kerber at 3-4 gave the game to Ivanovic, who stayed in front, grunting with defiance as she hit the ball in aggressive rallies.
Ivanovic stayed cool and didn’t seem to break into a sweat. “I really tried to stay calm because that’s the only way you can play your best tennis and you can make a sane decision where to go around the court. I knew she was a tough player and she does bring a lot of balls back so I had to be patient. I tried to keep my cool and I’m happy I managed to do so.”
Her strategy worked and she took the second set 75 to win another point for Serbia, but not without a fight from the German, whose game was also excellent, helped along by an enthusiastic home crowd. “Yes, for sure, we had a great match I think and also the fans and the crowd, it was unbelievable playing there in front of the guys, the atmosphere is great and they are supporting you so much so, yes, it was a nice match I think.”
With the tie score now in favour of the Serbians at 2-1, Fed Cup newbie Mona Barthel knew she had to pull her weight to get Germany into the World Group in the second rubber of the day and show Bojana Jovanovski who was boss.
“I felt much better [today on court] than yesterday. Yesterday was the first time I played [in the Fed Cup] and I was really, really nervous. Today there were still a lot of nerves and a lot of pressure I felt because it was 1-2 to Serbia, so I knew I had to win. And I wanted it so badly because I feel we have such a good team and we really belong to the Fed Cup World Group and not again the World Group II,” explained Barthel.
To this end, Barthel started well reaching 5-1, propelling Serbian coach Dejan Vranes to wag his finger at Jovanovski in the following changeover break to shift gears. Jovanovski then pulled out some aggressive play to add a game to the first set and avoid total humiliation, with Barthel taking the first set for Germany 61.
Vranes must have pushed his player’s panic button as she flipped her play from passive to aggressive and went on the break Mona’s serve and lead 3-1 to take the second set 63.
The players reached 3-3 in the third set until Jovanovski’s mistakes allowed the German’s thunderous serve to give her the advantage and pull ahead to 5-3, then winning the match for Germany with a shows topping ace down the centre line.
With two points in the tie for each country, the pressure now shifted to the doubles’ players: Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Sabine Lisicki for Germany, Vesna Dolonc and Aleksandra Krunic playing for Serbia.
Sabine Lisicki was prepared for this scenario, “I said this morning to Anna, ‘You know we’re going to be so ready for the match if we [Germany] reach 2-2.”
The German ladies lead the way from the outset to beat the Serbians and win the first set 62. With Lisicki’s explosive serve and Groenefeld a menace at the net alternating drop shots and smashes with ease, the dynamic duo ploughed on to win the second set and match after a nail biting final game securing Germany’s place in the Fed Cup World Group.
Barbara Rittner was clearly buoyant about the final rubber that clinched the tie for Germany, “It was a perfect doubles. In the first set I think we only missed one ball, they hit the balls unbelievably hard. It was very high quality doubles and I’m very happy we won it in two sets, because you never know, even in the end it could have turned around as 5-4, 5-5 was very close. I was very relieved when we won it.”