FRIBOURG, SWITZERLAND: And to think most observers thought that this tie would be predictable. It was anything but. The scoreline of 1-1 at the end of the first day’s play doesn’t tell half the story.
There may be a discrepancy of 1,433 places in the combined rankings of the Australian and Swiss teams, but the Fed Cup, as we all know, is a great leveller and the host nation came back to square the tie in a quite extraordinary second rubber.
Stefanie Voegele, leading Switzerland for the first time following the retirement of Patty Schnyder, and the higher ranked – by some 99 places – Jarmila Gajdosova went toe-to-toe like two old bare knuckle fighters with no quarter given.
The outcome was in doubt right until the end of its two hour 28-minute duration when the Australian, after saving seven match points, finally succumbed 60 67(8) 86.
Purists would have said it was far too hit-and-miss to be a classic and certainly it did seem as if neither player knew the meaning of the word “rally”, but it was incredibly exciting after the one-way traffic of the opening set and it had the Swiss fans hollering and cheering throughout the finale at the Fribourg Forum.
Roger Federer, Mardy Fish and company have it all to do next week to conjure something half as gripping in their Davis Cup tie here.
Australia remain the favourites but Christiane Jolissaint, the Swiss captain, expects the opposition to bring in Jelena Dokic for Gajdosova against Timea Bacsinszky on day two in the second of the reverse singles.
Five games into the opening rubber of her match against Samantha Stosur, Bacsinszky looked more like the one to be stood down.
Playing her first serious tennis since seriously injuring her foot in an off-court incident last April the young Swiss, understandably, looked out of her depth against the world No. 5 Stosur. But both she and her captain will have been encouraged by the way she eventually made a match of it before losing 62 75.
Bacsinszky lost the opening five games as her serve deserted her. Jolissaint could not understand why because she had served so well in practice, although credit to her for holding serve in the sixth game when she served three double faults.
She’s clearly a fighter, though, and despite surrendering the first set she then went on a run where she won five out of six games to take a three-love lead in the second set.
Although Stosur’s signature shot, the forehand drive volley, was working sweetly enough, the rest of her game has yet to return to the level of last year when she won the US Open. Nevertheless, she was still too good for Bacsinszky, even if the Swiss player’s ranking of No. 241 is clearly misleading.
Talking of rankings, David Taylor, the Australian captain, thought Voegele played way above her ranking of No. 138 in defeating Gajdosova. The two had never met before but there was nothing tentative about their approach to the match.
Partly because the clay court here is much quicker than most and partly because of Gajdosova’s hit-and-miss style the match turned into the tennis equivalent of a slugfest.
After losing the first set 60 there seemed no way back for the Australian but in an amazing about-turn she raced into a 5-1 lead in the second set. Both players ruthlessly punished their opponent’s second serve and even, on occasion, the first.
Then Voegele won the next four games and it was a brave man who could predict the outcome of this match. Even the second set tiebreak was full of twists and turns, Gajdosova taking a 4-0 lead before pegged back to 6-6. She eventually managed to win it 10-8.
The deciding set continued in the same fashion. It was impossible to predict a pattern other than that of an irregular one.
Stefanie Voegle (SUI) - 04/02/2012
Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS) - 04/02/2012
Captain Christiane Jolissaint (SUI) - 04/02/2012
Captain David Taylor (AUS) - 04/02/2012