World No. 6 Angelique Kerber may be the highest ranked player in this weekend’s Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off between Germany and Serbia, but the 25-year-old left-hander is adamant that the outcome of the first meeting between the two nations will be decided by the better team rather than a standout individual.
Though 11 spots ahead of Serbian No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in the rankings, Kerber lost her only previous meeting with the world No. 17 in a tight-three setter on a Belgian hard court in Hasselt in 2006. And while gaining revenge might be a small motivating factor, this tie is not about settling old scores.
“You’re playing for the team and not for yourself,” stressed Kerber. “All the other girls have the same feeling, [either] playing or sitting alongside [the court] supporting us.”
Kerber lines up alongside Fed Cup debutant Mona Barthel, Sabine Lisicki and Anna-Lena Groenefeld on the indoor red clay of the Porsche-Arena in Stuttgart. Even the late withdrawal of world No. 30 Julia Goerges does little to weaken a strong German side, with experienced world doubles No. 19 Groenefeld coming in to replace her.
Serbia, meanwhile, sees former world No. 1 Ivanovic supported by No. 44 Bojana Jovanovski, Vesna Dolonc and Aleksandera Krunic.
“It’s not an easy draw but we have a great team,” Kerber said. “We have a lot of good players so the most important thing is to be like a team and play all together – it doesn’t matter who is playing and who is sitting out.”
Germany has flittered between the World Group and World Group II since enjoying a sustained run in the top tier of the competition between 2000 and 2004, but Barbara Rittner’s team knows it is capable of a strong challenge for the Fed Cup title next year if the hosts can overcome last year’s finalists and bounce straight back into the World Group. The willing amongst the players is certainly there.
“It’s very important to play Fed Cup and to be in the national German team,” said Kerber. “Playing against Serbia is not easy but we’re playing at home and in front of the German fans so I’m looking forward to play.
“I really enjoy the week with the other girls and we always have a lot of fun. It’s not like a normal tournament. You play for Germany and you are always a little bit nervous but it’s nice to be in the team.”