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20 May 2011

Top 5: Long-serving legends


NEWS ARTICLE

By 

  • Chris Archer

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Conchita Martinez (ESP)

There have been countless outstanding contributions to Fed Cup down the years, so it’s difficult to know where to draw the line when compiling a list such as this. Therefore I started by establishing two benchmarks that players must have met - competed in 50 ties and recorded 50 wins. Here goes...

 

1. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Conchita Martinez (ESP)

It’s too difficult to split these two queens of Fed Cup, so they rightfully take top spot side-by side, just as they were for 15 years when proudly representing their beloved Spain. During the 1990s, Sanchez Vicario and Martinez teamed up to lift the trophy on no fewer than five occasions, as well as reaching a further five finals during illustrious Fed Cup careers.

When it comes to the history books, Sanchez Vicario is the slightly more decorated of the two Spanish stalwarts. The four-time Grand Slam champion holds the Fed Cup record for the most number of wins, 72, four ahead of Martinez, which includes being the only player to ever record 50 singles victories. They were no slouches on the doubles court, either, and with 18 wins as a pair their record is still in tact for being the most successful doubles team.

 

2. Anne Kremer (LUX)

Kremer is the only active player to make it onto this list, and “active” is a good word to describe her. Having made her debut way back in 1991, the 35 year-old was still churning out the wins in 2011 as Luxembourg finished 11th in Europe/Africa Zone Group I.

Kremer’s appearances in 2011 also helped her reach a significant milestone that, if she continues to play for a few more years, is unlikely to be broken for some time. The former Top 20 player, now ranked in the 100s, overtook Tzipi Obziler and Anna Smashnova to become the most capped Fed Cup player, having now tallied up 63 ties.

 

3. Virginia Wade (GBR)

Great Britain is one of only four nations to play in every Fed Cup and has reached the final four times. These runner-up finishes spanned a 14 year period and Wade was an ever-present throughout this run, before eventually calling it a day in the competition in 1983 at the modest age of 38.

The former US Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon champion, who remains the last British player to win a Grand Slam singles title after her win on home soil in 1977, is fourth on the all-time list of Fed Cup wins, 66, and sixth for ties played, 57. Wade competed during a golden period for women’s tennis in Great Britain, whose search for a maiden Fed Cup triumph goes on.

 

4. Helena Sukova (CZE)

Sukova is one of Fed Cup’s most prolific performers, having lifted the trophy four times for the former Czechoslovakia in the 1980s. The first victory arrived in 1981, her first season in the competition. She went on to play 54 ties and win 57 rubbers, including an impressive 45-11 singles record.

It would be wrong not to mention Sukova’s partner in crime throughout the glory years for the Czechs, Hana Mandlikova. A few years older than her teammate, Mandlikova fell just short of making it onto this list in her own right, having recorded 49 wins from 45 ties. She retired from Fed Cup at the early age of 25, while Sukova continued adding to her stats in the competition until she was 31.

 

5. Natalia Zvereva (BLR)

Zvereva began her Fed Cup playing career for USSR and twice finished runner-up, in 1988 and 1990. Following the break-up of the former Soviet Union, she began representing Belarus in 1994 and helped the side reach World Group II in 1999, before going on to perform captain’s duties. In total, she played in 54 ties and notched 59 wins.

Many people remember Zvereva as a doubles specialist, and with 80 doubles titles, including 18 Grand Slams, this description isn’t entirely inaccurate, but it’s often forgotten what an accomplished singles player she was, too. A former world No. 5 in the individual form of the game, the Belarusian won four career titles and finished runner-up at Roland Garros in 1988.

 

Best of the rest…

USA’s Billie Jean King and Chris Evert are truly legends of the game and of Fed Cup, but they didn’t make the cut here because neither reached the 50 tie threshold. Despite this fact, they both possess extraordinary win-loss records in the competition, 52-4 for King and 57-4 for Evert, and King’s exploits as a captain, leading the team to four titles, should not be forgotten.

Honourable mentions also go to the Israeli pair of Obziler and Smashnova, who lie joint second for the most Fed Cup ties played, having represented their nation on 61 occasions. Indonesia’s Yayuk Basuki, who celebrated her 40th birthday in 2010, closely follows on 59 ties, a figure she added to earlier this year when she made a Fed Cup comeback after a ten year hiatus from the competition.

 
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