U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez is in Stuttgart, Germany to lead her team of Melanie Oudin, Christina McHale, Liezel Huber and Vania King against Germany in the Fed Cup World Group Playoffs, to be played April 16-17 at the Porsche Arena. In the days leading up to and during the competition, Fernandez will be sharing her thoughts exclusively with USTA.com. Check back daily for the latest blog entry!
Saturday, April 16:
I was really proud of both Christina and Melanie today because they both gave it their all and fought to the last point in their matches against Andrea Petkovic and Julia Goerges.
For Christina, in the first set of her match against Petkovic, which was actually closer than the score indicated, she had a lot of chances at 3-all to break but lost it and it quickly got away from her and she got a little frustrated.
But down 4-0 in the second set, she got back to basics, started to impose her game - she has a really big forehand - and things really started to turn around. She won four of the last six games and got really close to getting back even. I was really impressed with the way she was able to steady her nerves and turn it around, so hopefully tomorrow she can build from that when she plays Goerges in the second match.
First tomorrow, Melanie plays Petkovic in the third singles match. I think Melanie has the experience even though she is only 19, she has been in these situations before and I think she thrives in this type of competition, where she is playing for her team and her country.
We have been down 0-2 before, including in the 2010 final to Italy, and Melanie stepped in and won the third singles match against Francesca Schiavone, which was huge. It is in her power and I think she believes it is in her power now. It is just a matter of putting it all together when she steps out there.
Friday, April 15
The official dinner last night was great and the restaurant was just fantastic. The waitresses were in traditional German outfits, which were great, and the food was very good so everyone had a really nice time.
Today we had the official draw ceremony at the Town Hall here in Stuttgart, where Barbara Rittner and I announced our players for this weekend’s matches, and now the afternoon is pretty relaxing for the team.
Everyone had a really good hit this morning before the draw. The have been playing so much since they started practice on Monday and now they are ready. Today is really about getting ready for tomorrow, so the afternoon they have off and they will relax, maybe walk around the city or go to some shops and just get prepared. And I am sure we will play some charades or Pictionary again tonight to unwind.
Tomorrow we have two court times for practice in the morning, Christina will play in the first one and Melanie will play in the second one to be ready for their matches. Christina plays Andrea Petkovic in the opening match and Melanie then plays Julia Goerges, who she beat in the first round of the Sony Ericsson Open just a few weeks ago.
The opening ceremony starts at 12:45 pm here and then the fun begins!
Wednesday, April 13
I was very disappointed to hear Bethanie would not be able to come to Stuttgart but it is so great that Vania was able to come on such short notice. I landed here on Monday and I had an email from Bethanie that she played the doubles final in Charleston, hurt her hip again and needed to take some time off and rehab. Then I called Vania right away. It all happened pretty quickly. I am so happy she was able to come, support the team and be ready to play. She practiced hard already today, even though she just arrived this morning. She was a great team member in Belgium and continues to show why she is great to have on the Fed Cup Team.
For Bethanie, it is better for her to err on the side of being safe. It also happened in my first Fed Cup as captain back in 2009 in Arizona. Bethanie was not able to play and I found out the day I got there as well and Julie Ditty then came at the last minute to replace her. I could not ask for it to turn out any better (with Vania) here in Stuttgart.
So far the court at the Porsche Arena feels good. It is a red, clay, indoor court but you don’t water it, which I have never heard of before. It has this oil-based surface. It is real red clay but we are so used to letting it dry or water it but you don’t have to on this one, it is pretty nice.
As far as the German team, Melanie played Goerges in Miami and Jamie Hampton, who is with us as a practice partner, played Petkovic so they both have something to share with the rest of the team about each player. They all know Lisicki and Groenefeld pretty well. I did a lot of Petkovic’s matches on television this year; she did so well in Miami and Australia, where she beat Maria Sharapova amongst other great players.
It is a big task ahead of us but it has been a great week so far. We have a young team and the players have meshed so well. They are really supportive of each other and they push each other, which is what you want.
It has been great having Jamie with us; she has been having great results as well. For Christina to have done so well the past few months and break into the top 100, I think is huge. We are stepping in the right direction, which is nice to see.
I am pretty confident in my lineup decision already for this weekend, which I will officially announce at the draw ceremony on Friday. It won’t be a last minute decision this time. I usually wait until the last minute because I have changed my mind but not this time.
I am excited about the weekend and I am excited about the future. We have played two finals now and when you think about it, these young players have done so well. They have really overachieved to beat some of these teams they have been able to beat and they are still developing and they are still in the process of getting better and to see them work so hard and do so well, it is a lot of fun.