Fed Cup is the team tennis event for women. (For non-tennis fan blog readers, you may want to stop now.) On day one, two singles matches are played. On the second day, the singles players swap opponents. These matches are followed by a double match. The country that wins at least three of the matches moves on to the next round. Switzerland against the Czech Republic was the semi-final round. The other side of the tournament was Belgium vs France. Too bad we didn't have one of those two opponents! The Czech Republic has a strong team and has won the cup four of the last five years!
Tickets were sold only for both days of the tournament, but there was no ID required. Therefore, I went both days but with two different friends, both players in my ZIWA tennis group.
I thought the Swiss team had a legitimate chance to win, but shortly before the matches, their best player, teenager Belinda Bencic, withdrew with a back injury. Now things were going to be much more challenging. We still had Timea Bacsinsky who is ranked #16 and Martina Hingis who is ranked #1 in doubles. The wild card was the unknown, Viktorija Golubic.
|the venue seats 5,400|
First singles match:
Barbora Strycova #33 (Czech Republic) vs Timea Bacsinszky #16 (Swiss)
Unfortunately for the Swiss team and fans, Timea played very poorly (nerves were probably involved) while Barbora couldn't miss. The match lasted barely over one hour (6-0, 6-2). With her ranking, Timea was expected to win. Not a good way to start.
Second singles match:
Viktorija Golubic #130 (Swiss) vs Karolina Pliskova #18 (Czech Republic)
|lots of red and white here!|
Viktorija did not disappoint and provided much entertainment and excitement. After losing the first set, she came back and won it in three! (3-6, 6-4, 6-4) She kept her poise throughout - nerves of steel! Until now, she's been playing in lower tier tournaments. She's proven herself ready to move up to the top level!
|very, very happy!|
Timea Bacsinsky #16 (Swiss) vs Karolina Plishkova #18 (Czech)
Based on those rankings, this match should have been very close. I was glad that Timea came out and played much better than on day one, but she still wasn't strong enough to overcome her opponent. She went down in two sets. (4-6, 2-6)
reverse singles match two
Viktorija Golubic #130 (Swiss) vs Barbora Strycova #33 (Czech Republic)
|ready to start - Swiss on the right|
|love her one handed backhand|
|Hingis and Bencic (with ponytails) on the bench|
The Swiss crowd was cautiously hoping that Golubic could pull off another huge upset. She started again by losing the first set, but clawed her way to a second set tie break which she won! By the start of the third set, the Czech player was hurting physically, but she continued to fight. The seven year age difference was definitely in favor of the Swiss. Youth trumps experience sometimes. (3-6. 7-6, 6-1) Yay!
Each fan was given a piece of sturdy cardboard that was scored for easy folding into an accordion. When hit against one hand, it made a loud clapping noise. So much easier on your hands than normal clapping. The signs said "BREAK" on one side and "HOP SUISSE" on the other. We had fun using them to encourage our team.
|Tom saw me on TV!|
|our new Swiss hero jumping for joy|
|leading the crowd in the "wave"|
Now that the teams were tied, it was up to the coaches to determine who should play doubles. Timea was scheduled to play, but it was announced shortly after the second singles event that they would replace her with the new hero, Viktorija! I was quite surprised by that. Yes, she has youth on her side, but she had just played a very emotional match. They were asking her to come out again in 45 minutes and be ready to play. I have no idea if she had even practiced doubles with Martina Hingis.
I'd never seen a warm up like this: teammates across from each other rather than on the same side of the net. One of the Czech players was only being used for warm up as well so that had to be the reason. They eventually traded places and did a cross-court warm-up.
|Czech on left, Swiss on right|
|Czech on left, Swiss (Hingis) on right|
|team huddle before the start of the doubles|
|Swiss have a huge height disadvantage|
|playing with Hingis must have been a thrill|
Part of the fun of going to this kind of a tennis event is that the crowd is very rowdy - not like at Wimbledon. (which I can only tell from TV because I've never been there) The Czech had brought a horn player, drums and some annoying plastic horns that just honk. They liked playing "when the saints go marching in" and "when you're happy and you know it" among others. We had plenty of noisemakers too, including cow bells. If a Swiss player made a winning shot, it was common to hear "JAWOHL" yelled out. On the change-overs, they played loud music. One song played much too often for my taste was "Cotton-eyed Joe!" What? That's out of place here.
We did not get the miracle happy ending that we were hoping for. The Swiss could not make a dent in the Czech service games and had trouble holding their own. Not a good combination. Martina was not the dominant force I was expecting. It was a disappointing straight set loss (2-6, 2-6), but a fun weekend of tennis nevertheless. I expect to hear much more from Viktorija Golubic. Too bad they don't earn ranking points for Fed Cup. If they did, she wouldn't be #130 anymore.