LIMOGES, FRANCE: It was ten years ago that Amelie Mauresmo won all eight of her singles rubbers as France became Fed Cup by BNP Paribas champions for the second time. They may no longer be in the World Group but this weekend the former world No.1 will take her seat on the bench as captain for the first time, hoping this is the start of her country’s journey back to the good times.
The tie between France and Germany at the Palais des Sports Beaublanc in Limoges this weekend is quite a clash for the World Group II first round. It is difficult to comprehend that one of these two great tennis nations will be playing a tie in April to retain their place at the World Group level.
France will be hoping that the appointment of Mauresmo can help spur on and bring the best out of their players as they look to return to the elite top tier. The two-time grand slam champion clearly commands great respect from her team and will be a reassuring presence courtside when the tie gets underway.
“It is quite an emotional moment for me giving the first selection,” said Mauresmo. “It has been a tricky one and a tough one but it is part of the job to make tough choices and decide. Now I am really looking forward to the start of the matches. I cannot wait to be on the chair and see what is going on.”
One of Mauresmo’s early coups was managing to persuade world No.10 Marion Bartoli to return to the team after a nine-year absence due to a dispute over her father not being allowed to coach her during Fed Cup weeks. Sadly, though, the return of Bartoli will have to wait as the 28-year-old has been struck with the flu and has been forced to pull out.
“It was a big step forward to have Marion in the team and now it is really unlucky that she has the flu,” said Mauresmo. “She was not able to practice at all during the week and we both thought it was not a wise decision to keep her because the chances were really not realistic at all for her to be on the court any time this weekend.”
Bartoli’s replacement Pauline Parmentier was not named in the initial four but was in Limoges as the “fifth member” hitting and training with the team. The world No.76 has impressed her captain during these sessions to step in ahead of Alize Cornet, who is ranked 40 places higher, for the opening rubber against Sabine Lisicki, who arrives with confidence after reaching the final of the PTT Pattaya Open in Thailand last week.
After a tight three-set battle at the Open GDF SUEZ in Paris last week, Kristina Mladenovic and Julia Goerges will again face off in the second rubber. It was Mladenovic who emerged victorious in a third-set tiebreak, before going on to reach the semifinals which could prove to be the ideal confidence booster for the 19-year-old former junior World No.1 ahead of her first Fed Cup singles rubber.
The draw has not been kind to Germany in recent times. They found themselves relegated to World Group II last year after successive defeats to eventual champions Czech Republic and Australia, and their quest for promotion has not been helped by the absence of world No.6 Angelique Kerber this weekend due to a back injury.
“It couldn’t have been tougher I think,” said Germany captain Barbara Rittner. “It is the two toughest teams and I wish we had a different draw. But now we are here playing France in France, which doesn’t make it any easier, but we’ll just have to take it as it is and we’ll see on the weekend.”
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Pauline Parmentier (FRA) v Sabine Lisicki (GER)
R2: Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) v Julia Goerges (GER)
R3: Pauline Parmentier (FRA) v Julia Goerges (GER)
R4: Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) v Sabine Lisicki (GER)
R5: Alize Cornet/Virginie Razzano (FRA) v Julia Goerges/Anna-Lena Groenefeld (GER)
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Julia Goerges (GER) - 08/02/2013
Sabine Lisicki (GER) - 08/02/2013
Captain Barbara Rittner (GER) - 08/02/2013
Captain Amelie Mauresmo (FRA) - 08/02/2013
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) - 08/02/2013
Pauline Parmentier (FRA) - 08/02/2013