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10 February 2014

Italy looking to semifinal as USA heads to play-off


By Sandra Harwitt

Photo: Susan MullaneCamila Giorgi (ITA)

It doesn’t seem to matter whether Italy brings their “A” lineup or “B” lineup to the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas competition. Italian Fed Cup captain Corrado Barazzutti has the luxury of getting the best out of his players, a talent which has delivered three Fed Cup titles to the country since 2009, including being the reigning champions this year.

This weekend at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland, Ohio, Italy was playing USA in a Fed Cup first round outing — the first weekend of Fed Cup in 2014. Italy took an unblemished 3-0 lead to win the tie before the American duo of Lauren Davis and Madison Keys won a doubles match against Nastassja Burnett and Alice Matteucci for a final 3-1 score for Italy.

Italy’s Karin Knapp won both of her matches against Christina McHale and Alison Riske. Camila Giorgi easily defeated Madison Keys in the other singles match played.

“Today we are very, very happy,” Barazzutti said. “It is a great victory for Italy. The girls played unbelievably well. I am very proud to be captain of this great team.”

As for the Americans, while they didn’t post a victory this weekend, Captain Mary Joe Fernandez was pleased with how her neophyte team handled the responsibility of playing Fed Cup.

“The thing I’m most proud of with all of them is how they competed, how they represented their country and how they handled the pressure of playing Fed Cup for the first time,” Fernandez said. “They really had the best attitudes. Everybody tried as hard as they could. That’s all I can ask. To me, even though we didn’t win, I told the team it feels like the beginning of something special.”

For Italy, the next stage in will be a semifinal appointment against either Spain or the Czech Republic. That quarterfinal tie has been held up by inclement weather so Italy will have to wait to see who they’ll play. Barazzutti did make it clear that if he was offered a preference he’d like to face Spain feeling that the Czech’s could have a more formidable team if Petra Kvitova is able to play in April.

For the Americans it’s another World Group play-off ahead, an essential outing to win if USA wants to keep themselves in World Group I and playing for the Fed Cup title in 2015. The play-off draw will come out on Tuesday and the USA will play one of the four nations who won World Group II ties this weekend: Argentina, Canada, France or Poland.

“My first choice is whoever we play, we play at home,” said Fernandez. “But really no preference. Whatever happens, happens. Those are all great teams. It’s going to be tough.”

So while both teams await their fate as to who they’ll face next in April — Italy in the semifinals and the USA in the play-off draw — it was the Italians who got to celebrate on Sunday night after a win.

And although Barazzutti said he very much enjoys an American “burger with cheddar” on this night the team would eat closer to their hearts at an Italian restaurant where pasta and wine was on the menu. 

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