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2011 Year in Review: U.S. Fed Cup Team

December 2, 2011 11:27 AM
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
It was a challenging year for the U.S. Fed Cup Team from the start in 2011, as it started its campaign in February with a tough assignment of facing Belgium and recent Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters on the road in front of over 10,000 fans in Antwerp.
U.S. Captain Mary Joe Fernandez led her squad of Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Melanie Oudin, Vania King and Liezel Huber against Clijsters, Yanina Wickmayer, Kirsten Flipkens and An-Sophie Mestach, and the Americans knew it would not be easy to defeat such a formidable team on its home ground.
However, the underdog role was nothing new for the U.S. team, and each player went out and fought her hardest. Mattek-Sands and Oudin pushed Clijsters and Wickmayer in singles, but the four-time Grand Slam champion proved too much to overcome as she won both her singles matches, including clinching the tie for Belgium in the third singles match with a comeback 6-7 (10), 6-2, 6-1 victory over Mattek-Sands.
Belgium had led 2-0 after the first day, as Wickmayer held on to defeat Mattek-Sands 6-1, 7-6 (6) in the opening match and Clijsters came out dominant to defeat Oudin 6-0, 6-4 in the second singles rubber. On Day 2, Clijsters then provided the clinching point before Wickmayer beat Oudin in the fourth singles rubber.
The U.S. made the final score 4-1 in Belgium’s favor as King and Huber then won the doubles match over Flipkens and Mestach.
It marked just the third time the U.S. had lost a Fed Cup first round tie in its history and the first since 2002.
With the loss, the U.S. moved into a World Group Playoff against Germany in April, which turned into another challenging away tie against a few of the world’s top players, this time in Stuttgart on red clay against a German team featuring Andrea Petkovic and Julia Goerges.
Rising American Christina McHale joined the U.S. squad for the Playoff, along with Oudin, King and Huber. And this time it was Petkovic who proved too much for the U.S. to overcome. Both McHale and Oudin played high levels of tennis in singles both days, but Petkovic won both her singles matches and clinched the tie with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Oudin on Day 2, which put Germany back into the World Group for 2012 and sent the U.S. to World Group II for the first time in its history.
Both McHale and Oudin fought to the last point and on Day 1 Petkovic first defeated McHale, who was playing in her second career Fed Cup match, 6-3, 6-4. Goerges then held off Oudin’s push to force a third set to win 6-2, 7-6 (5) and give Germany the commanding 2-0 lead.
After Petkovic defeated Oudin for the clinching point, Sabine Lisicki, a substitute for Goerges, defeated McHale 6-3, 6-4 and Goerges and Anna-Lena Groenefeld then outlasted King and Huber in the doubles match to make the final score 5-0 in Germany’s favor.
The U.S. and Fernandez were disappointed with the results but knew there was not much else they could have done; they played well but simply lost to a stronger team. They are now looking forward to trying to return to the World Group for 2013.
First they will face Belarus in February 2012 with a home tie in Worcester, Mass., and 13-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams has already committed to play. The Belarus team is expected to feature world No. 3 Victoria Azarenka.
The U.S. must win that tie and then a Playoff in April to reclaim its place in Fed Cup’s top group the following year.
Fernandez is looking forward to playing at home and leading her team through the next set of challenges in 2012.
"Last year was definitely a challenge and difficult to be on the road," Fernandez said of 2011. "We played very good teams. We started off with Belgium with Kim Clijsters on that team. Our next round was in Germany. They had a tough team, as well, with Andrea Petkovic.
"(Next) coming home and playing in a familiar setting, near Boston in Worcester, Mass. is exciting for everybody," she added.


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