Fed Cup Final starts in



08 February 2010

Italy reaches last four



  • Nick Lester

Francesca Schiavone (ITA)

All weekend within the confines of the Palace of Sports Lokomotiv stadium in Kharkiv, a new computer game has been promoted.

In a kind of sim style "Smash tennis" - as it's called - it involves buying and taking charge of players or teams and guiding them across the highs and lows of a lengthy tennis season.

After two days of competitive Fed Cup by BNP Paribas play this weekend, it's Italy's stock that continues to rise.

Different people… one goal

Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone are, in truth, an unlikely pair. They are apart in personality as the character of the cities they hail from – Pennetta from the wine region of Brindisi in the south, and Schiavone from fashion conscious Milan in the north.

But, along with Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, who continued her unbeaten run in the 'dead' doubles yesterday, Pennetta, Schiavone and Co form a unique bond. Corrado Barazzutti, captain of this successful side, also plays a major role in the team’s chemistry.

Lea Pericoli, the former Italian No. 1, attended Kharkiv to watch this tie. She was once offered the all-important captain’s role, but knows that is not an easy position to fill.

“It was not right for me to lead the team,” said Pericoli. “It's very hard for a woman to lead to a woman's team, especially in Italy. Corrado is doing a perfect job. He has the respect of the players.”

Barazzutti could not hide is delight after the win, labelling it as ‘one of the best’. With Czech Republic next up at home, Italy will be odds on to reach another Final.

Bright future

And what of the Ukrainians? Perhaps they came into this tie with almost too much bravado.

It was not difficult to feel the expectations placed upon the Bondarenko sisters over the weekend, a rise of 20 places in the team rankings was almost too much, too soon.

‘Unlucky’ is how Volodymyr Bogdanov called the weekend. But he remains very confident his nation is progressing.

“We have many good coaches here, good junior players, our new federation is working all the time very well, we have lots of people supporting tennis with money and we hope within three years to win the Fed Cup.”

So, as a harsh Siberian winter continues to grip this eastern outpost and a new president is sworn in, it is the Italians who once more continue to underline the old adage that there is no “I” in team.

  • More photos

    • Francesca Schiavone (ITA)The draw in Kharkiv
    • Francesca Schiavone (ITA)Alona Bondarenko (UKR)
    • Flavia Pennetta (ITA)Flavia Pennetta and captain Corrado Barazzutti (ITA)
    • Italian team celebrates

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