STUTTGART, GERMANY: Angelique Kerber cancelled out Ana Ivanovic's earlier victory to leave the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Play-off tie between Germany and Serbia level after the opening day.
Mona Barthel's Fed Cup debut on home soil at Stuttgart’s Porsche Arena started well but ended in defeat as world No. 17 Ana Ivanovic overturned the loss of the second set to secure a defiant win.
As a Fed Cup 2012 finalist, it was a question of pride for Ivanovic and losing out to a Fed Cup newbie in Barthel was not an option. Meanwhile, Barthel’s two recent victories over the former world No. 1, at the same venue in the Stuttgart tour-level event in 2012 and at Indian Wells this year, weren’t enough to overcome her nerves.
“When you’re going out there and you hear your national anthem, for the first time, of course you have a lot of emotions and directly after that you have to go out there and play and concentrate on your match. So I’ve never been through all this, so I don’t really have a [Fed Cup] routine,” explained Barthel.
The first set appeared to go as planned for Ivanovic as Barthel got off to a slow start, but the German fought back to reach a tie-break that Ivanovic ultimately clinched. Barthel dominated the second set, winning 62, but underestimated Ivanovic’s experience and the Serb went on to dominate the third set, winning 62 decisively, but after almost two hours.
Barthel was no walkover for the Serbian player, who came back in the third set as play reached 2-all.
"When I started the third set I really felt it was a fresh start; I [thought to myself I] have to go back to the plan I had in the first set, it worked so well. Then there was a game when we were at 2-all, she had 30-0 on my serve and I managed to win that game and I felt like it was a turning point,” Ivanovic said.
The day’s second rubber was concluded in one hour 22 minutes by a focused and determined Kerber who kept Bojana Jovanovski busy on clay, winning 75 62. With Germany one point down following the day’s first rubber, the pressure was clearly on Kerber’s shoulders.
The rubber started off dynamically as Kerber responded powerfully to Jovanovski’s aggressive style of play. Kerber broke serve to move 6-5 ahead in the first set, sealing it in the very next game, then came back on to the court in the second set determined to make quick work of the match, which she then took easily 62, justifying her No. 6 ranking.
Jovanovski’s injuries have kept her out of action in recent weeks which meant today was her first match of the year on clay.
“I can’t be angry with myself as I’m still not fully ready to play against a player who is top 10 in the world,” she said. “It’s fine, it will be better tomorrow.”
So what's in store for Kerber against Ivanvoic?
“I think I need to try to move her maybe a little bit," said Kerber. "Try to play aggressive my game and and move very well."
Germany coach Barbara Rittner was philosophical about the day’s play. “I would have preferred a 2-0,” she said.
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Angelique Kerber (GER) - 20/04/2013
Ana Ivanovic (SRB) - 20/04/2013