Except for the 2003 final in which France prevailed, the U.S. have owned France in Federation Cup competition. Their twelfth meeting occurred in Lievin, France on clay. The Americans dominated in the first round by winning three successive rubbers to clinch a semifinal spot.
On Saturday, in the first rubber after Bethanie Mattek-Sands jumped to a 2-0 lead, France’s Alize Cornet rolled off five straight games to build a 5-2 edge. After Mattek-Sands crawled out of a triple break point hole and got to 3-5, she altered her tactics by coming more to the net. It paid off. Mattek-Sands broke Cornet as she served for the set. But, following Mattek-Sands breaking for 6-5, she surrendered the lead at love sending the set to a tiebreaker. A seesaw tiebreaker was ultimately captured by Mattek-Sands.
In the second set, after Cornet broke in the first game, with a sleuth of errors, she allowed Mattek-Sands to level the set. Then, after neither woman relinquished serve, at 5-6, the errors got the better of Cornet. This resulted in Mattek-Sands carrying the initial rubber 7-6,7-5. Cornet’s record now stands at 0-6 in Fed Cup play.
The second match featured Melanie Oudin against Pauline Parmentier. Oudin drew first blood in taking a 3-2 lead. Subsequent to Oudin easily consolidating, Parmentier had 0-30 on Oudin’s serve on various occasions, however, each time the American halted the Frenchwoman. Oudin took the first set 6-4.
In the second set, Oudin finally capitalized on a couple break point opportunities and went ahead 2-1. Yet, on double break point, Oudin double faulted squaring the set at 2 all. After netting a forehand, Oudin faced triple break point. Still, the teenager delivered to arrive at 3 all. Then, with Parmentier serving at 4 all and 40-0, Oudin applied pressure on the second serve and got to deuce. Subsequently, with a forehand return winner, Oudin had a second break point. Oudin converted when Parmentier misfired on a backhand crosscourt. Afterwards, Oudin kept her composure despite a tough game and closed out the match 6-4,6-4.
Today with the U.S. in front 2-0, Oudin battled Julie Coin in the opening match. With an aggressive crosscourt forehand return winner, Coin broke Oudin in the first game. After Oudin let double break point get away, Coin had a 3-1 lead. But, with a lax game by Coin which included a double fault, Oudin knotted the set at 4. With Oudin unable to break after obtaining a set point with Coin serving at 4-5, the set went to a tiebreaker. With a double fault, Coin obtained a mini-break for 3-2. But, with a forehand error, Coin gave up the lead. Next, with Coin dumping a forehand into the net and by producing a forehand winner, Oudin took control at 6-3. Oudin closed out the set with a forehand up the line winner.
In the second set, after dodging a couple of break points, Oudin broke for a 3-2 edge. After consolidating, at 4-3, Oudin blundered on a forehand down the line to give Coin break point. Once again, Oudin came up with the shots to keep her nose in front 5-3. Later, with three consecutive forehand winners, Oudin arrived at double match point. When Coin shanked a forehand long, Oudin wrapped up the semifinal berth for the U.S. 6-4,6-4.
In the fourth rubber, captain Mary Joe Fernandez played teenager Christina McHale against Parmentier. While McHale performed well, Parmentier prevailed 6-4,6-4. In the last dead rubber which was the doubles, Liezel Huber and Mattek-Sands battled Stephanie Cohen-Aloro and Cornet. The Americans carried the last match 6-2,6-3.
The U.S will clash with Russia in the semifinals. Russia collided with Serbia on the latter’s home turf. On Saturday, Ana Ivanovic was blown off the court by Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 6-4 in the initial rubber. However, teammate Jelena Jankovic gave Serbia new life. Jankovic overcame a 4-6,1-4 and 15-40 deficit to steal the second match from Alisa Kleybanova. Today, after Jankovic defeated Kuznetsova 6-3,4-6,6-3 to put Serbia ahead 2-1. Ivanovic failed to seal the deal. Kleybanova beat her 6-2,6-3. Thus, the tie was severed by the doubles match. Kleybanova and Kuznetsova secured Russia’s participation in the next round by shutting down Jankovic and Ivanovic 6-1,6-4.
After reigning champion Italy dropped its first match against Ukraine yesterday, Flavia Pennetta won in straight sets to equalize the tournament. Today, in the opening rubber, Pennetta stopped Alona Bondarenko 7-5,7-6 to place Italy ahead. Then, after dropping the opening set to Kateryna Bondarenko, Francesca Schiavone rebounded 2-6,6-1,6-1 to place Italy in the semifinals.
After Saturday’s matches, the Czech Republic was in a dead heat with Germany. Today, Lucie Hradecka defeated Andrea Petkovic 6-1,7-6 in the first match giving the Czechs a 2-1 lead. Still, Anna-Lena Groenefeld kept Germany alive with a 4-6, 6-3,6-2 triumph over Petra Kvitova. Therefore, a live doubles rubber was played. The Czech Republic advanced by Kveta Peschke and Hradecka besting Tatjana Malek and Groenefeld 6-1,6-3. The Czechs will take on the Italians in the semifinals.