Tears of Anger – Fed Cup fallout in Germany

Translation of this piece in the Süddeutsche Zeitung by Philipp Schneider

Andrea Petkovic has cried quite a few times on the big stages of the world of sports during her career as a tennis pro, she never held back her sad emotions during press conferences and there were very different reasons for her to cry. Sometimes because she had once again injured herself. And sometimes because she lost. This Sunday Andrea Petkovic cried again, immediately after the last point of the decisive doubles rubber against Russia. But these were different tears, tears of anger, that streamed out of her on the tennis court in Sochi.

She almost pulled it off, the most remarkable comeback in the German Fed Cup history. But after her 2-6 3-6 loss with Sabine Lisicki against Elena Vesnina and Anastasiya Pavlyuchenkova, even the interim equalizer to 2-2, almost a miracle in itself, was moot. So Andrea Petkovic cried. The score was 3-2 for Russia. And Petkovic knew: They were once again not going to win the Fed Cup.

On Saturday night the German tennis women were already almost eliminated, 0-2 down after singles losses by Julia Görges and Sabine Lisicki. It seemed far-fetched to think that Barbara Rittner’s team could reach the final to win the “damn thing”, as Rittner had called the Fed Cup after last year’s final loss to the Czech Republic. And it looked like Rittner outfoxed herself with her decision to rest Petkovic and Angelique Kerber on the first day.

Rittner had made the plan with Görges and Lisicki because she believed that Petkovic and Kerber were not rested enough to already play on Saturday. It almost worked.

Kerber had flown around the world three times recently, before she arrived at the black sea on Wednesday after winning the WTA tournament in Charleston. Whoever booked the adventurous journey with stops in Washington – Frankfurt – Poznan – Munich – Istanbul – Sochi either was forced to improvise at the last minute – or has a crude sense of humour. Two days Kerber spent on the road, and somewhere along the way her luggage got lost. Would she have been ready on Saturday? It’s moot to speculate.

On Sunday anyway, Kerber played as well rested as a groundhog after months of hibernation in a well-cushioned nest. With a 6-1 6-0 she just rolled over Pavlyuchenkova – it took just 52 minutes until she used her second match point. Maybe Kerber should have played doubles, where Pavlyunchekova, who had just had been humiliated by her, was playing for Russia.

Petkovic loves heroic stories

The chance for the equalizing point had been made possible by Petkovic, who won a surprisingly relaxed 6-2 6-1 match over Svetlana Kuznetsova. The Russian is one of the most experienced and uncomfortable opponents on tour. In 2004 she won the US Open, 2009 the French Open. Kuznetsova, 31, born in Leningrad, looks with her massive head band always like she is going to battle. She was one of the reasons why Russia had chosen clay in the first place. Twice she and Petkovic had played on this surface, twice the Russian had won.

But this was Fed Cup.

And Petkovic, that much she knew beforehand, would save the team and even German tennis with a win once again. Petkovic loves heroic stories like this, even those about herself. Since her Fed Cup performance against Australia in February, where she contributed two points to the 4-1 victory over Australia, she has also raised her level of play on tour. Her game benefits from the fact that she has been coached in the last few weeks by Rittner’s assistant Dirk Dier, who for Petkovic seems to be a Fed Cup chef: After winning a tournament in Antwerp she also reached the semifinal in Miami and did the same in Charleston, where she lost to her team-mate and eventual champion Angelique Kerber.

Petkovic played focused against Kuznetsova, smart, with angles, brave. She was quickly up 3-0 in the first set, she made barely any errors, especially her two-handed backhand put the Russian under pressure. A frustrated Kuznetsova threw her racket to the ground, and after the first set she disappeared to the toilet for a quarter of an hour. Shortly before Petkovic used her second match point it looked like Kuznetsova was about to eat her own fists out of desperation.

“She soaked in the atmosphere and then realized that it’s cool to play here,” Coach Dier said. And Petkovic happily shared the tricks she tried to overcome the jet-lag: “Vitamin pills and aspirin, but I’m still so tired. Tomorrow I’m lying down in the bath tub for five days”. Nobody was going to argue with that, especially since Petkovic, as opposed to Kerber, had come back out on court. And lost the decisive doubles match.

Translated by Katja

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