In a Fed Cup surprise this weekend, Team Italy took out the favored French team 5-0. In singles matches on day one, Italy pitted Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone against Amelie Mauresmo and Alize Cornet. Mauresmo is a two-time Grand Slam champion, and Cornet had an excellent Australian Open, holding match points against eventual finalist Dinara Safina, so the French team looked to be in solid positions heading into the weekend.
In the first singles match, Mauresmo went up against Pennetta, who had a career year in 2008 but had started off slowly in 2009. The match was full of drama, with Pennetta pulling off a comeback victory 6-4 in the third. Both sides were quite passionate about the match, getting in very heated debates with the tournament officials. After the match, it was announced that Pennetta received a $2,000 fine for making a “rude gesture” toward the chair umpire. The fine will likely mean little to Pennetta, with the thrill of victory more than making up for it. The French team also had words with the Fed Cup referee about the Italian Team’s behavior.
The second singles on Day 1 was also an intense affair, with Cornet taking on the slumping Schiavone. Schiavone has been as high as 11 in the world, but looked to be in poor form in 2009, her only win coming against an Australian wildcard ranked 450 in the world. Fed Cup seemed to bring out the best in Schiavone’s game, though, as she battled past Cornet to an epic victory at 8-6 in the third set. The two tense matches were demoralizing to the French team, as the entered Day 2 in an enormous hole with no room for error.
On the second day, the Italians picked up where they left off, with Pennetta easily moving past Cornet and Sara Errani able to take out Mauresmo in straight sets. Italy now moves on to the Semifinals, where they have the misfortune of being drawn against Russia. France will have to play in the World Group Playoffs in April, where they will play to stave off relegation to World Group II.
In other Fed Cup news, the depleted USA team went down 1-2 against Argentina, led by Gisela Dulko, before staging a dramatic comeback. In the fourth match, teenager Melanie Oudin lost the first set 6-2 against Betina Jozami but was able to summon better tennis moving forward and ultimately took the match in three sets to keep the US team alive. It then fell to the doubles and world #1 Leizel Huber to put the United States over the top and advance to their Semifinal against the Czech Republic. Fed Cup play will continue the weekend of April 25-26.