The red clay in Moscow was the venue for the Federation Cup semifinal played on April 26-27 between Russia and the US. The setting, the surface and the inexperience of the US team meant that Russia was in the driver’s seat from the getgo. Despite being crippled, the athletes and Captain Zina Garrison admirably represented the stars and stripes. Regrettably, the Americans’ effort fell short, as Russia moved on to the finals for the second straight year and will attempt to win its fourth cup in five years.
Day one was a repeat of last year’s semifinal with Anna Chakvetadze, ranked 7 in the world, taking on Vania King, ranked 111. With Chakvetadze struggling this year, this was possibly the best chance the US had to move into the lead. Although King played well and left it all out on the court, ultimately, the Russian’s experience helped her overcome the rough patches. Chakvetadze won 6-4, 7-5. The second match was an exercise in calisthenics as Svetlava Kuznetsova rolled over Ahsha Rolle 6-2, 6-1. The following day, Vera Zvonareva clinched the team’s spot into the finals by beating Vania King in three tough fought sets 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Nevertheless, more tennis was to come since there is a mandatory five matches fulfillment . In the fourth rubber, Rolle got the better of Elena Vesnina 6-3, 6-4, while the doubles team of Liezel Huber and King won the last one 7-6, 6-4.
This marks the second year in a row that the Russians blocked The US’ path to the finals. The last year the Americans won this trophy was 2000. Unless top ranked players are willing to dedicate their time to this endeavor, the American team will always be handicapped prior to even striking a single ball, particularly when facing titans such as Russia. As Marie-Joe Fernandez replaces Garrison as coach next year, there is ample work to be done if the Federation Cup is to be rerouted to these parts.
Russia will battle Spain in the finals in September. In spite of having to perform in front of a hostile crowd and without its key players, the Spaniards overwhelmed China, winning four out of five matches. With the Russians having a plethora of leading competitors to choose from, indubitably they will be the favorites. Nonetheless, with the tournament taking place in Spain, home court advantage cannot be discounted. Undisputedly, the boisterous Spanish fans will attempt to help the home team carry the day.