Fed Cup – February 2015

FED CUP – February 2015 by Steve Webb

I flew out of Heathrow on Sunday 1 February to Budapest and booked into the Danubius Hotel Arena that was across the road from the Syma Event and Congress Centre in which the Fed Cup Tennis was being played. I met the rest of the BATS members at breakfast on the Monday morning – Mary Pope, Joanne Rorison, Maurice Baldwin, Sylvia Maybry, Lynne Moran and Sue Richardson. During breakfast we could see several of the teams in the Fed Cup and we tried to identify as many players as we could. By the weekend we had seen players of 12 countries but not Great Britain who were staying somewhere else.

As the tennis did not start until Wednesday that gave us two days to explore Budapest, so we caught the M2 Metro to the City Centre and got the ”Official Hop On Hop Off Budapest City Tour” which gave us unlimited use for 2 days. We started with the Red Line Tour for the morning, after which we had lunch and did the boat trip on the Danube in the afternoon. On Tuesday we did the Yellow Line in the morning and some of us did the walking tour in the afternoon whilst others visited other attractions.

 On Wednesday morning we took the short walk across the road to the tennis arena. The 15 countries playing this year were split into 4 pools ‘A’ had 3 teams and ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ had 4 each. GB were in Pool B along with Liechtenstein, Turkey and Ukraine. All Pool B matches started at 10am Wednesday along with Pool C matches. Pool A and Pool D matches started at 4pm. There was the Centre Court and Courts 1,2, and 3 in the Main Hall.

GB’s first opponents on Wednesday were Liechtenstein on Court 2, the No 2 players played first and so Konta played Van Deichmann in the opening rubber. Konta played some great tennis in the first set and easily won 6-0 in 22 minutes. The 2nd set was much of the same and Konta won the 2nd set 6-0 in 23 minutes. She only allowed Van Deichmann 1 game point on her own serve. Next was the No1 players, Watson v’ Vogt. In the 1st Set Watson went 3-1 up before losing her serve but then broke Vogt twice in succession to win the set 6-2 in 27 minutes. In the 2nd set it was a repeat, Watson went 3-1 up with a break, was broken to 3-2, broke back to 4-2 and ran out a winner 6-3 in 37 minutes to give GB a 2-0 lead in rubbers. Finally it was the turn of our doubles team Rae and Smith against the two players from Liechtenstein who played in the singles rubbers. In the 1st set the GB girls broke twice and won the set 6-1 in 21 minutes.   In the 2nd set GB broke in the 1st game, broke again in the 7th game and won the set 6-2 in 26 minutes never losing their serve in the match. GB 3 Liechtenstein 0.



GB’s second opponents on Thursday were Turkey again on Court 2. Konta v Soylu was the 1st Match on court. Konta got off to a fine start in the 1st set by breaking serve in the 1st game and only winning after 11 minutes of play. She went 2-1 up but then there were 3 breaks of serve to level the score at 3-3, Turkey broke again to lead 5-3 and won the set 6-3 in 56 minutes. In the 2nd set the score was 4-4 after a break each and went to 6-6 with no more breaks. In the tie break Turkey won 7-5 in points and the set in 61 minutes. Watson’s opponent was Buyukakcay and in the 1st set Watson had a very bad start going 4-0 down and never recovered losing the set 6-2 in 28minutes. In the 2nd set it went with serve to 2-2, Turkey broke then GB broke back with another break to lead 5-3 and GB won the set 6-3 in 40 minutes. In the 3rd set there were 4 breaks to make the score 4-4, then Turkey led 6-5 and broke Watson to win the set 7-5 in 56 minutes and the match by 2 sets to 1 and give Turkey a 2-0 lead in rubbers. In the doubles Rae & Smith played Eraydin & Ozgen and had no trouble at all winning 6-2 in the 1st set with 2 breaks and broke twice again in the 2nd set to win that 6-1 in a total match time of 49 minutes. However Turkey had won both singles and won the match overall by 2 rubbers to 1.

Now we come to CRUNCH TIME FRIDAY, here with Turkey looking to beat Liechtenstein 3-0 and win all 6 sets, GB had to beat Ukraine at least 2-1 and win a set in the 3rd Rubber in order to top the Group and play in the Promotional play-off match on Saturday.

In the 1st rubber Konta played Tsurenko. In the 5th game of the 1st set Konta broke to 3-2 and broke again in the 9th game to win the set 6-3 in 45 minutes. At the start of the 2nd Set Ukraine broke but Konta broke back in the 4th game to level at 2-2, won 5th game with an ace, broke in 6th game to lead 4-2 and broke in 8th game to win set 6-2 in 39 mins and put GB 1 rubber up. In the 2nd Rubber matched Watson against Svitolina. The 1st set was on serve until Ukraine broke to lead 4-2 and then broke again in 8th game to win the set 6-2 in 33 minutes. In the 2nd set there were no breaks until 2-2 and then we had 7 consecutive breaks of serve which resulted in Watson leading 6-5. She then held serve and won the set 7-5 in 52 minutes. The 3rd set was a very tight one which had Watson breaking just once in the 5th game and resulted in Watson winning the set 6-4 in 33 minutes and the match by 2 sets to 1 and giving GB a 2-0 rubbers lead.

Now it was ALL to play for in the doubles. Rae & Smith played Savchuk & Svitolina and in the 1st set there were 6 breaks of serve and GB had to break in the 12th game to force a tie break which they lost and so Ukraine were 1 set up. In the 2nd set Ukraine went 3-0 with a break in the 2nd game, GB broke back in the 5th game, then both teams held serve to leave Ukraine leading 5-4. Rae then had to hold serve to stay in the match. Ukraine then had a MATCH POINT that was saved and Rae won the game to level the score at 5-5. GB broke to lead 6-5 and then served out to win set 7-5 in 48 minutes. The 3rd set was a very tight one, GB got off to a great start breaking in the 1st game. There were no more breaks until the 7th game when Ukraine broke but GB broke back in the next game to lead 5-3. Finally Rae served and won the 10th game to win the 3rd set 6-4 and the match by 2 sets to 1.

GB having won all 3 rubbers finished top of the Group with 7-2 rubbers and Turkey had to settle for 2nd place with 6-3 Rubbers after beating Liechtenstein 3-0.

 Saturday was the Promotion, Relegation and Placement matches for the teams. GB winners of Pool B played their Promotion match against Belarus winners of Pool C.

 In the 1st Match Konta played Govortsova, the 1st set was over in 25 mins with Govortsova breaking Konta 3 times and winning the set 6-0. The 2nd set was no better with Konta only holding serve once and losing 6-1 in 27 mins to give Belarus a 1-0 lead in Rubbers in only 54 mins of play.

The second match was Watson v Azarenka, in the 1st Set Azarenka led 3-0 before Watson held serve in the 4th game and then broke Azarenka in the 8th game to level the score at 4-4 but Azarenka then raised her level and broke Watson in the 10th game to win the set 6-4 in 35 mins. In the 2nd set Watson only manages to hold serve once and Azarenka with 2 breaks of serve ran out a winner 6-1 in 38 mins to win the match and complete a 2-0 win in Rubbers for Belarus, thus securing a place in the Group 2 playoffs to be held 18/19th April and having an away tie in Japan. GB having lost will now compete again next year in Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 to be held again in Budapest.

The other promoted team for the Group 2 playoffs was Serbia who beat Croatia and Serbia now has a home tie with Paraguay. Teams relegated to Europe/Africa Zone Group 2 were Liechtenstein who lost to Portugal and Austria who lost to Latvia. Teams promoted from Europe/Africa Zone Group 2 to Europe /Africa Zone Group1 for next years competition were Estonia and South Africa.

Wimbledon preview: Can Murray do it again?

I’ll admit that I woke up this morning feeling a bit like a kid on Christmas morning. Today is of course the start of Wimbledon, but this year’s tournament is also a little bit special. After last year ending Britain’s seventy-seven year wait for a Men’s Singles Champion Andy Murray will today step out onto Centre Court to begin the defence of his title. The question on everyone’s lips is ‘can Murray do it again?’

On his way to the title: Andy Murray at Wimbledon 2013
On his way to the title: Andy Murray at Wimbledon 2013

Andy has had a tough season so far and looked some distance off his best at the beginning of the year as he returned to the tour following back surgery. There have been plenty of encouraging signs in the last few months however, with a semi-final showing at the French Open suggesting he is close to hitting top form.

So, what can we expect from him at Wimbledon this year?

The next two weeks will bring a new kind of pressure for Murray and we don’t know for sure how he will cope with the demands of defending a crown he worked so hard to win. For added spice there’s also a new coach in town, with former Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo stepping into his coaching corner.

Andy Murray playing on Centre Court during Wimbledon 2013
Andy Murray playing on Centre Court during Wimbledon 2013

My personal opinion is that Andy is in with every chance of defending his title. He has well and truly proved that he is one of the best grass court players in the world and he hasn’t lost a match at Wimbledon since his defeat to Roger Federer in the 2012 final. Following that loss he returned to Centre Court just a few weeks later to win Olympic Gold and of course triumphed in last year’s final against Novak Djokovic, who is this year placed in Murray’s half of the draw. Aside from that the draw has been relatively kind to Andy, particularly in the early rounds. The first real test could perhaps come in the last eight, with Ferrer or Dimitrov being possible Quarter Final opponents. Murray won’t be looking that far ahead, though – and the Grand Slams have proved time and time again that nobody is safe during the early rounds.

It's time for Wimbledon to get under way
TVs and cameras at the ready: It’s time for Wimbledon 2014 to get under way

On the women’s side the British charge is this year being led by Heather Watson, with Laura Robson missing the event with a wrist injury. Heather comes into Wimbledon on the back of a semi-final appearance on the grass in Eastbourne, where she also had arguably her best ever win against top-twenty player Flavia Pennetta. These are great signs that the young Brit can have a successful Wimbledon campaign and it’s going to be interesting to see how she does. Watson first has to overcome a tricky first-round opponent in Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia.

Aside from Andy Murray, day one of Wimbledon sees plenty of British men in action, with five of them scheduled to take to the courts. Dan Evans opens against the Russian Andrey Kuznetsov, whilst James Ward faces the vastly experienced Mikhail Youzhny. Rising star Kyle Edmund plays Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria, whilst Dan Cox starts his campaign against Jeremy Chardy of France. Dan Smethurst will make his Wimbledon debut on day two against America’s John Isner.

British women to look out for on the opening day are Johanna Konta, who plays Shuai Peng of China, and Naomi Broady, who faces Hungarian Timea Babos. Day two sees Samantha Murray having the unenviable task of facing Maria Sharapova, whilst Tara Moore also has a tough draw and plays former finalist Vera Zvonavera.

How will the Brits do over the next two weeks? Only time will tell and it’s going to be truly fascinating to watch. Get ready to shout loudly, wave your flags and #BackTheBrits.

By Daniel Flower

Despite some successes, British players will be glad to have left the red dirt behind

It’s little more than a week since Andy Murray’s French Open challenge came to a devastating end at the hands of an ever-brilliant Nadal but already the clay court season kind of feels like a distant memory.

Andy Murray in action in the French Open first round
Andy Murray in action in the French Open first round

In some ways this year’s Roland Garros was a great tournament for Murray, who equalled his best ever performance in Paris by reaching the semi-finals. But it was the manner of the defeat to Nadal that in many people’s eyes served to overshadow his great achievement of reaching the last four. This wasn’t just a defeat, it was a comprehensive drubbing – and although Andy must have been pleased to have reached the last four he was clearly looking to go all the way.

For all the significant progress Murray has made on clay it is still the surface he is least effective on – and he certainly has made progress. I was lucky enough to visit Roland Garros this year and watch Andy play in his first round match against Andrey Golubev, where I left the court with the definite impression that he was moving better than ever on this surface. But ultimately it would appear that he still has some way to go if he wants to truly conquer the clay and one day win in Paris. With Nadal around that could prove to be a tall order, but then Andy has made a habit of proving people wrong in his career, so who knows?

S0763323It’s not just Andy who isn’t exactly what you’d call best friends with the red stuff. British players have traditionally struggled at Roland Garros, however this year there were several highly notable achievements. Perhaps leading that list is James Ward, who became the first British man in more than 40 years to qualify for the second Grand Slam of the year. That his progress was halted in the first round of the main tournament was perhaps no surprise having been drawn against the experienced Tommy Robredo, a player who has reached the French Open quarterfinals on five previous occasions – but even so it was a great performance for James having come through three rounds of qualifying. He has very much proved his clay court credentials this year, most famously playing a crucial role in helping Great Britain to victory over the USA in the Davis Cup in February.

S0543204On the women’s side Heather Watson successfully came through qualifying and put in a good performance to triumph in her opening main-draw match against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic. Heather also battled hard against Simona Halep in the second round, however the Romanian star ultimately proved too strong for the young Brit. The signs for Heather are good though and I’m confident that she can have some success at the All England Club.

With Wimbledon now only just over a week away the attention is very much focused on Andy Murray and the defence of his title. I’m sure he is glad to have left the red clay behind and is looking forward to stepping back onto the grass of Wimbledon, which by contrast is arguably his best surface. Should fate dictate that this year’s Wimbledon sees a Murray v Nadal rematch then I think it will be an entirely different match to what we saw in Paris. I can’t wait!

By Daniel Flower

Elena Baltacha 14th August 1983 – 4th May 2014

“IF you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.”

These are the famous words written by Rudyard Kipling, which greet every competitor as they walk out onto Centre Court at Wimbledon.

Elena (“Bally” to her friends, family and fans)  may as well have written these words herself, because this is exactly what she did. She never made excuses for herself. If she lost a match, she simply picked herself up and tackled the next one head on. “Feisty” is a pretty accurate description of someone who had the determination and the desire to achieve her potential.

Bally in Eastbourne in 2013
Bally in Eastbourne in 2013

It was the same away from the court. Bally had more than her fair share of illness and injury in her career, but she never once complained about it. If anything, she was a prime example of an athlete who managed their condition (a chronic liver condition ‘primary sclerosing cholangitis’) and did not let it dictate. If there was anyone who expected her to fade away into tennis obscurity after yet another set-back, then they were in for a big disappointment.

Bally did not know the meaning of “give up”. She took everything she had into every match and always gave her opponent plenty to think about. She thrived on the home crowd support, the more Union Jacks around the court, the better. The more noise the crowd made, the better she played.

Bally’s loyalty to her country won her many fans. She represented Great Britain in the Fed Cup and at the last tie, early in 2014, she was on the bench as chief cheerleader, despite being unable to play. At the Commonwealth Games, she had represented Scotland, but her finest achievement and proudest moment was when she was selected for the London 2012 Olympic Games, [to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Olga, who competed for the (former) Soviet Union, in Pentathlon and Heptathlon.]

Bally was very proud to represent her country
Bally was very proud to represent her country

The 2012 Olympic tournament was held at Wimbledon on the grass, where Bally had had some of her finest victories. She reached the second round in London.

In 2010 Bally reached No 49 in the World, achieving her goal to break into the top 50. She retired from the game in November 2013 to concentrate on building her Academy with Nino Severino.

The Elena Baltacha Academy of Tennis (in Ipswich) was established by Bally and Nino, to help girls from deprived areas learn the game. It is testament to Bally’s drive, enthusiasm and sheer love of Tennis. It is also Bally’s legacy, her own way of ensuring that others less fortunate than herself, have the opportunity to play and excel in the game that she loved.

In November 2013, Bally and Nino married, and Bally retired from competitive tennis to concentrate on the Academy. In March 2014 came the announcement that Bally had liver cancer. She died at home in the early hours of May 4th 2014. She was 30.

 

 

 

By Jo Bartholomew on behalf of BATS (British Association of Tennis Supporters)  May 10th 2014.

Davis Cup Italy v GB Third Day

Italy 3 GB 2

Well it was not to be. Italy came from 2-1 down to win the tie 3-2.

We felt optimistic at the beginning of the day as we took the 151 bus to Tennis Club Napoli.

Andy Murray started well but after the Stirling University chant against Fognini upset him, he upped his game and Murray couldn’t cope. Suddenly Fognini won 5 straight games to win the set. We remonstrated with the students to change their chants but they refused.

Fognini was playing very well and Murray had no answer so it was soon clear that Fognini would win and he completed his victory by 6-3 6-3 6-4.

After a short break it was time for the final match between James Ward and Andreas Seppi. It was a real mountain to climb for Ward on clay but he did well and exchanged breaks twice with Seppi but could not prevent Seppi winning the first set 6-4. Ward continued to play well but could not quite win a set and Seppi won the next two sets 6-3 6-4.

The result of Switzerland v Kazhakstan was no longer relevant and we now have to look forward to a first round in March 2015.

Nonetheless it has been a great weekend enjoyed with several new BATS members and many new members have been signed up.

Davis Cup Blog Italy v GB Second day

What an amazing day!

Heavy rain had been forecast but it stayed away.

The singles match between Andy Murray and Andreas Seppi resumed at 5 all in the second set and we were all relieved when Andy Murray closed out the set 7-5 despite slipping on the wet area at the back of the court.
He then finished off the match 6-3 in the third set.

We then had around an hour and a half before the doubles match. Despite the proposed pairings in the programme, the two top players, Fognini and Andy Murray played with Bolelli and Colin Fleming respectively.

Fognini seemed to be struggling with his leg injury and lost three service games in a row to lose the first two sets 6-3 6-2. Then the Italians found some form and the Italian crowd started to make some noise. They won the third set 6-3 and were a break up in the fourth so the momentum was with the Italians. Fleming and Murray came back brilliantly to win 7-5 from 5-3 down.

The atmosphere was amazing with the British fans making lots of noise which must have made a difference!

Davis Cup Blog Italy v GB First Day

GB fans have been arriving over the last few days and the last few arrived this morning. There are apparently over 700 of us including 55 BATS!

The forecast was bad and the rain started on our bus journey to the venue. Many of us sheltered from the rain in the cafe over the road and enjoyed some Prosecco, Vino Rosso, latte or other such delights whilst waiting for the rain to stop.

Once play got underway, James Ward raced to a 3-0 lead but was pegged back by Fabio Fognini who won the first set. Ward was playing well and won the second set but could not maintain his good form and Fognini won in four sets 6-4 2-6 6-4 6-1. He seemed to be still struggling a bit with a leg injury so hopefully Andy Murray can overcome him in the reverse singles.

Murray v Seppi started with little prospect of a finish. Murray looked comfortable on serve and won the first set. It was looking a bit easy for Murray on serve and he relaxed and found himself 4-2 down. He broke straight back but it had suddenly got very dark and at 4-5 down Murray was in grave danger of losing the set. However he fought hard to save 4 set points and the day ended at 5-5.

The Italian fans were not that many and only occasionally noisy. The British fans were led by the Stirling University students with some great chants and songs!

It’s an early start tomorrow with the singles to complete and the doubles and more rain is forecast.

Davis Cup Blog Day Three

We did it!

USA 1 GB 3

We were all optimistic before the match but Andy Murray had to do the business! It was another small crowd – it seems that the locals were more interested in watching the Super Bowl (which, by the way, has only just started!) and were not keen to watch when they were likely to lose.

Sam Querry played aggressively, much better than on Friday and gave Murray a few problems. After being a break up twice in the first set, Andy edged the tiebreak. The second set was won by Querry in another tiebreak and it was looking ominous. However Andy came out fast at the beginning of the third set and we began to feel more relaxed! It’s normal to have a few scares watching Davis Cup but Andy was up to the task and he sealed the deal winning 7-6 6-7 6-1 6-3.

We are going back to the Hilton Bayfront this evening for the LTA celebrations drinks!

The next tie will be in Italy on clay on 4 – 6 April. We will know the venue by the middle of February.