USA is 2-0 up on France after the first day of play of the first round tie of Fed Cup by BNP Paribas.
“I was really proud of both my players. Both players kept it together mentally which is what I think made the difference,” said US captain Mary Joe Fernandez.
“We are down 0-2 so it’s frustrating. Both Alize and Pauline had good chances to win their matches, but in Fed Cup when you have chances to kill the match you need to do it,” said French captain Nicolas Escude.
Confident start for Mattek-Sands
With her knee-high socks and her criss-cross tank top, Bethanie Mattek-Sands was clearly the more confident of the two players out on court today, and the pressure was clearly on the less exposed shoulders of home player Cornet.
The American broke Cornet in the opener and consolidated to go up 2-0. The Nice native, yet to win a Fed Cup rubber (0-6), seemed to be continuing her Fed Cup nightmare.
However, the Mattek-Sands storm quickly died down. The American dropped the next five games giving Cornet a 5-2 lead, and a real hope of a first victory in the top women’s team competition in tennis. In the next game Cornet was up love-40, on the Mattek-Sands serve, but was unable to close.
The loss of three consecutive set points destroyed Cornet psychologically; she conceded the next four games, allowing USA to take a 6-5 lead. Cornet needed to react and react she did, by breaking at love.
In the tiebreaker, Mattek-Sands seized the first set point at 5-4 but was unable to convert. Cornet then went up 6-5 for set point number four but here again, it seemed as though her nerves got the best of her. Bethanie was offered a second set point at 8-7 and took advantage of an unforced error by Cornet to snag the first set.
After an exchange of breaks in the first two games of the second set, both players held serve until 6-5 for USA. On serve, down 5-6, Cornet was under immense pressure and quickly went down love-40, giving her opponent three match points, of which she managed to save the first two. But Alize’s laser forehand down the line hit the net, awarding USA the first point of the tie.
“I’m very happy with my match. I just tried to play my game, not think about the score. I just focused on each point,” said Mattek-Sands.
Pressure for Parmentier
In the first set of the second rubber between the American number one, Melanie Oudin, and France’s number two Pauline Parmentier, all the pressure sat squarely on the shoulders of the French local hero, honoring her first ever Fed Cup nomination. One break in the fifth game of the first set in favor of the 2009 US Open quarterfinalist, Oudin, was all it took for the American to capture the first set.
Parmentier, up against the wall with nothing to lose, needed to deliver her best tennis and the 104th player in the world did so, causing nothing short of havoc on the court. Despite dropping her serve early in the set, Parmentier broke back to two games all. Up 3-2, the French rookie suddenly seemed to dominate the points, although missing out on several break opportunities (1 for 9).
Fighting spirit takes Oudin through
Unfortunately for her, due to lack of experience or to Oudin’s fighting spirit, Parmentier was unable to make good on these numerous chances. For Oudin, this proved a moral booster. The American waited patiently for an opening, which showed its face at 4 games all. After being down love-40, Oudin came back to deuce and, on her second break point opportunity, captured Parmentier’s service game to secure a commanding 5-4 lead. Parmentier saved the first match point in the next game but not the second.
“Coming on court with a 1-0 lead was a nice feeling but once I was on court all that mattered was my match. I played a good game and being up 2-0 is great but it’s not over yet,” said Oudin.
With a 2-0 lead, USA, the 2009 runner-up is now in the driver’s seat to potentially cruise into the Fed Cup semifinals. The US needs but one more point and, after a first day that saw Cornet buckle while Oudin held strong, the first of the reverse singles between the two countries could very well be the tie decider.