Saturday, May 23, 2015

Top seeds all face vulnerabilities in French Open draw

Mannequins in front of a Paris boutique
There's something about the publication a fresh draw that excites tennis fans almost as much as actually watching the matches. The four quarters of the French Open draw lead to all manner of speculation, but I think the speculating is perhaps more of a fan passion than it is anything else. And a great one indeed, because it gives us something to do while we wait for the tournament to begin.

Top seed and two-time Serena Williams presides over the first quarter. Her likely third round opponent will be Victoria Azarenka, a fact which is stirring up some conversation, but I don't really see Azarenka giving Williams much trouble in this tournament. There are two players in this quarter--one in particular--who have histories of really challenging Williams. Those would be her sister, Venus, and Jelena Jankovic. But neither of them poses much of a threat at this time, either. Sloane Stephens is part of that quarter, and I don't see her doing much damage. Only Caroline Wozniacki could give Williams a bit of a run, and they are "scheduled" to meet in the quarterfinals.

I read somewhere today that Petra Kvitova has an "easy" draw. I think not. The Kvitova quarter includes Irina-Camelia Begu, Timea Bacsinszky (okay, she's no longer "hot" but anything can happen, and especially with Bacsinszky), Karolina Pliskova, and 2009 chamption Svetlama Kuznetsova. Also lurking are Lara Arruabarrena, Belinda Bencic (also in a slump, but she kind of likes majors), Anna Schmiedlova, and Kiki Mladenovic. In other words, players who do well on clay are congregated in Kvitova's quarter. Genie Bouchard is there, too, and you never know, but the Canadian would have to get past some gutsy clay players first.

Next is Simona Halep's quarter, which isn't without danger to the Romanian star (whose greatest danger may actually be her own psyche). Caroline Garcia loves the big stage, and she's French, on top of that. When she's on, she's dangerous. Frenchwoman Alize Cornet can be dangerous, also, and then there are Elina Svitolina and the mercurial Mona Barthel. And--while she hasn't had a lot of great days this year--Roberta Vinci could have some in Paris.

Finally, there is the Sharapova quarter. The defending champion could meet 2010 runner-up Sam Stosur in the third round. If that happens, and Strasbourg champion Stosur has a good serving day and Sharapova has a bad one, it could be the end of the Russian's run. Both of those scenarios are quite possible. But Stosur isn't the only potential trouble-maker in that quarter. Carla Suarez Navarro, who must be practically itching with desire to beat Sharapova, is there, as are the unpredictable (but often threatening) Camila Giorgi, Charleston and Stuttgart champion Angelique Kerber and Lucie Safarova. Kerber is coming in with an injury, but she is not to be taken lightly. Oh, and add to this list the tour's latest ubiquitous pest, Daria Gavrilova, and  you can see that Pova has her work cut out for her.

French Open champion predictions

Here is a list of who has picked whom, so far. I will add to it as more predictions come in.

Maria Sharapova
Cliff Drysdale
Mary Joe Fernandez
Todd Spiker
Kamakshi Tandon

Simona Halep
Darren Cahill
Brad Gilbert
Pete Bodo
Pam Shriver
Matt Wilansky

Serena Williams
Tracy Austin
Greg Garber
Chris Evert
Steve Tignor

Petra Kvitova
Jon Wertheim
Steve Weissman

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sharapova wins Rome, but is she the Queen of Clay?

Maria Sharapova won the Italian Open for the third time today, making her one of a small group of women who have won big titles since the "official" clay season began last month. Angelique Kerber tops the list with victories in both Charleston and Stuttgart, and Petra Kvitova won the title in Madrid.

In today's final in Rome, Sharapova defeated Carla Suarez Navarro 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. The Spaniard player had an outstanding run, taking out both 4th seed Kvitova and 2nd seed Simona Halep. Always a talent on clay, it's only in the last year or so that Suarez Navarro has been able to calm her nerves in big matches. But today, she couldn't take Sharapova down in straight sets, and we all know what result that scenario usually brings.

3rd seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic won the doubles title, defeating top seeds Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza 6-4, 6-3 in the final. Doubles has become quite a curiosity lately, with Errani and Vinci out of the picture, and several teams playing extremely well.

And now we are only a week away from my favorite major, the French Open. As I see it, there are several major contenders, yet each of them is vulnerable:

Maria Sharapova: She's the defending champion, and also won in Paris in 2012. Sharapova's transformation to clay court expert is no longer news; she is a real force at Roland Garros. Her victory in Rome puts her back into the number 2 ranking spot, which means she'll be on the opposite side of the draw from Serena Williams, which allows for more time for Williams to be knocked off before the final takes place. Sharapova, with her unpredictable serve, can play some sloppy tennis, but she can also take hold of a match and claim it, as she did today in Rome.

Simona Halep: If the 2014 runner-up plays in Paris like she did last year, her chances of winning the whole thing are very big. In her 2014 run, Halep looked scary, she was so good. She took Sharapova to three sets in the final, which was one of the best finals in recent memory. Right now, though--despite having won three titles this year (including Dubai and Indian Wells)--Si-mo-na looks sen-si-tive. She lost to Caroline Wozniacki in Madrid, and to Suarez Navarro in Rome. She's been making a lot of unforced errors and faux-smashing a lot of rackets. Something is wrong, and one (very likely) possibility is that the nerves have reappeared now that Halep is a favorite to win at Roland Garros.

Serena Williams: It generally doesn't matter whether Williams is injured, recovering from injury or not playing at her highest level; she can still be counted on to rise to the occasion if the occasion is a really big one. She did it at the French Open in 2013. However, of all the majors, the French Open is the one at which the world number 1 is least likely to be able to just put on her Believe shoes and win. She's vulnerable there, and can't be considered a sure thing.

Petra Kvitova: Yes, P3tra and all that. But the Barking Czech can win; she has the skills. I never count her out.

Carla Suarez Navarro: She's finally coming into her own, and her clay game is classic and beautiful. Why not?

Angelique Kerber: Anyone who wins both Charleston and Stuttgart gets on this list. Also, the way Kerber won Charleston--fighting like mad all the way through--gets her some extra notice.

There will also be many players at Roland Garros who will be happy to ruin it all for one of the contenders. Players like Andrea Petkovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Sam Stosur, Alize Cornet, Garbine Muguruza, Karolina Pliskova, 2012 runner-up Sara Errani, Caroline Garcia, and of course, the Queen of Mexico, aka Timea Bacsinszky. Danger also lurks among the likes of 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic, 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, Victoria Azarenka, Madison Keys, Irina-Camelia Begu, Kiki Mladenovic, and--on the right day--Camila Giorgi. Throw in Mona Barthel, Jelena Jankovic and Elina Svitolina, and there's a trap everywhere a top contender turns (and I haven't even named all of them).

Of course, experience helps a lot, but clay--the great neutralizer--allows classic clay court players a chance to out-maneuver "bigger" players. Clay court play can be a real grind, too, with longer rallies and more breaks of serve, so fitness is key. Sharapova and Williams each hold eleven clay court titles, but they have some worthy opponents. Who will be the last woman standing in the red dust?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Kvitova wins second Madrid title

Petra Kvitova may have struggled a bit here and there this week, but she also had "the look"--the one she gets when she's mostly relaxed on court and can put herself into "Scary Petra" mode at will. It was almost a given that her opponent in today's final, Svetlana Kuznetsova, would be down to her very last reserves. The 2009 French Open champion played two epic matches against very tough opponents (Stosur and Safarova) and she played them consecutively, in the quarterfinals and semifinals. It was a wonder, in fact, that Kuznetsova was able to go three hours against Safarova after what Stosur had put her through.

Today, Kuznetsova felt ill during the match, and that was certainly no surprise. She also had to deal with a very in-form Kvitova, who hit 33 winners in 66 minutes, beating Kuznetsova 6-1, 6-2. This, of course, after she defeated defending champion Serena Williams in the semifinals.

The Madrid title, Kvitova's second, gives her a total of 16 singles titles, and she's now 16-5 in tour finals.

Most people don't believe that Kvitova is, or ever was, a contender to win the French Open, so great is her love of grass and indoor courts. I've always thought that she was a contender for all of the majors, though the French would be more difficult for her, and her asthma gives her problems in Flushing Meadows. Mostly, I think, it's about the head--everything else is nicely in place.

Casey Dellacqua and Yaroslava Shvedova won the doubles title, defeating 3rd seeds Garbine Muguruza and Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 6-7, 10-5 in the final. Dellacqua and Shvedova defeated Stuttgart champions Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova in the semifinals; Muguruza and Suarez Navarro defeated Kiki Mladenovic and Karolina Pliskova.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A note to readers

I am participating in the Mindfulness in May project in order to provide clean water to people in developing countries. A donation to sponsor me will provide clean water to one person for life. All of us who are seeking sponsors will be participating in a mindfulness meditation experience for the duration of the fund-raising period, i.e., the month of May.

To donate, please click on the water icon on the top right of this blog page, or click on the above link. All donations are very much appreciated.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mental health problems--when you can't call for the trainer

A few years ago, a member of the WTA told a journalist that if all of the tour's eating disorders were cured, the top 20 would change dramatically. Some players' eating disorders have been easy to discern--those players have suddenly become frighteningly thin, and then just as quickly, they have become obviously overweight, then very thin again. Others may have eating disorders that are not as obvious to onlookers.

Anxiety runs high among players in terms of performance, and that is to be expected in sport. Players who choke a lot are suffering with a form of anxiety, and this fear of performance outcome is more likely to be manifest in left-handed players, since left-handed people are more prone to being fearful than right-handed people. (Take a look at your favorite "head cases" and you'll see a pattern.)

None of this is talked about, of course, except for the occasional acknowledgment by a player that she is seeing a sports psychologist or "mental coach." Such professionals help players overcome the mental blocks that keep them from performing at their highest level. One player who has talked freely about receiving such help is Francesca Schiavone. The Italian star was in a number of finals that she didn't win, but after adjusting her mental approach, she went on to win tournaments, including the French Open.

Depression is another story, and one that is rarely discussed. Victoria Azarenka was open about the depression she felt when she couldn't play for a long time because of injury. Marion Bartoli went through something similar, as have many injured players. This is situational depression, and it is generally extinguished when a player is able to return to the sport. In fact, players often return with a renewed commitment to performing at their best level.

Sometimes situational depression among athletes can get very serious, as with skier Picabo Street, but it can generally be overcome. You don't have to be a professional athlete, in fact, to understand how hopeless it can feel to suffer an injury and go through physical pain.

But what about more serious depression that isn't related to injury? We rarely hear this subject discussed in sport, yet common sense informs us that just as many athletes experience clinical depression (and there are several kinds of clinical depression) as individuals in the general population. We know about Jennifer Capriati's experience with depression, and not that long ago, the tour lost Rebecca Marino to depression.

As all fans know, a number of top WTA players have had abusive parents. The only ones we hear about are the famous ones, but there are more. There is no way that the daughter of an abusive parent  (make that "parents" because the other one is allowing the abuse to occur) cannot suffer emotionally. Abuse (of all kinds) by parents is the main reason people do suffer emotionally. And while these elite players have shown great strength in "overcoming" the abuse, all that we as fans see is their performance on the court.

An athlete who has been very candid about her depression is golfer Christina Kim, who--I can't help but think--has helped others by her candor. But surely she isn't the only member of the LPGA who has had to cope with clinical depression, just as Marino can't possibly be the only member of the WTA who has had to cope with it.
In the non-sports celebrity world, there is often a lot of talk about mental health issues, probably because celebrities feel their every move is exposed to the public, anyway. But the professional sports world is more closed, and the socially defined role of "athlete" is considered "stronger" than the role of "actor" or "musician." Quite possibly, there is perceived to be more shame among athletes if they acknowledge mental health issues. A few years ago, you'll recall, an ATP player became enraged when he heard that people thought he might have suffered from depression.

Professional tennis players are given nutritional advice, massage and physical training on a regular basis, but I can't help but wonder who is looking out for their mental health.

Kerber continues clay court tear and wins Stuttgart

When Angie Kerber won Charleston the week before last, she was just warming up. Today, in front of her home crowd, the German star won Stuttgart and had a white Porsche added to her trophy and flower bouquet.

A final played between Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki was bound to have long rallies and excitement, and this one did. Wozniacki, who has played some excellent clay court tennis this week, took the first set easily, as Kerber appeared somewhat heavy-legged and unable to make the ball penetrate into the corners as she had earlier in the tournament. She looked tired, and her opponent (who never looks tired) was very much in control, winning the opening set 6-3.

That changed in the second set, when Kerber suddenly seemed to wake up from a stupor and hit the ball faster and harder. With a little confidence carrying her, she also began to add some variety to her game and to make Wozniacki run vertically as well as horizontally. Kerber took that set 6-1.

This match had "tight third set" written all over it, and that, too, turned out to be reality. Wozniacki went up an early break and eventually, led 5-3, when Kerber threw everything she had at the Dane and broke her. It was a true turning point, as Kerber went on to hold and then to break Wozniacki again. It took her four match points, but the KareBear prevailed with 7-5 in the third.

The trophy ceremony, always a good one in Stuttgart, was especially emotional since a German player won the tournament (someone needs to tell the emcee, however, that Stuttgart is not the first clay tournament of the season). Kerber gave her new Porsche a spin, after telling the crowd that her victory wouldn't have been possible without them.

This is Kerber's fifth WTA title and her eleventh consecutive match win. She is now 6-4 against Wozniacki, and 2-0 against her on clay.

The doubles title went to 3rd seeds Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova, who defeated 2nd seeds Caroline Garcia and Katarina Srebotnik 6-4, 6-3. This is the second title the pair has won; they also won the 2015 Australian Open.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Russia and Czech Republic advance to Fed Cup final

Two teams whose members are quite accustomed to playing in Fed Cup finals will play in one later this year. Russia and the Czech Republic advanced today, defeating Germany and France, respectively. The Russian victory was made easier by the absence of both Angelique Kerber and Andrea Petkovic on the first day of play. I don't know why Kerber didn't play, but I know that Petkovic cited mental and physical exhaustion.

The Russian team defeated Germans Julia Goerges and Sabine Lisicki on day 1, and on day 2, Kerber and Petkovic turned it around with defeats of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Svetlana Kuznetsova. It came down to doubles, and the team of Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina were too good for Petkovic and Lisicki. Vesnina, in fact, was superb, and was given more than able support by her partner.

With the Czech-France opposition, there was never going to be much hope for France on an indoor court in Ostrava--if Petra Kvitova showed up rested and ready. She did. Kvitova beat both Kiki Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia in straight sets. On day 1, Garcia was defeated by Lucie Safarova after holding five match points, one of many brutal moments in the weekend's activities.

In the World Group playoffs, Italy defeated the USA 3-2. Serena Williams won both of her singles rubbers, and Lauren Davis and Christina McHale were beaten by Sara Errani and Flavia Pennetta, respectively. In her first singles rubber, Errani took a set from Williams. Then came the doubles rubber, and Italy, represented by Errani and Pennetta, all but ran over the USA, 6-0, 6-3. Williams' partner was Alison Riske, and they had obviously not played doubles together before (actually, they had never met before), and were no match for the Italians.

One of the surprises of the weekend was The Netherlands' victory over Australia, also in the World Group playoffs. Sam Stosur had to withdraw because of injury, but the able Casey Dellacqua was put in to join teammate Jarmila Gajdosova. No matter. Kiki Bertens beat both of them, and Arantxa Rus defeated Gajdosova.

Also in the World Group playoffs, Poland and Switzerland endured more drama than anyone. Martina Hingis, who hadn't played a competitive match since 2007, was put in to play two singles rubbers. On day 1, she was beaten 6-4, 6-0 by Aga Radwanska, which maybe should have provided some type of hint to the team captain about what to do on day 2. Only it didn't. Hingis next played Ula Radwanska, and led by a set and 5-2 when everythig fell apart for her.

Hingis injured her leg and almost couldn't move at all. She stayed in the rubber and also received medical treatment, but Radwanska won five straight games, then won the third set 6-1. But all wasn't lost for Switzerland since Timea Bacsinszky won both of her singles rubbers. Now, in a world that made sense, Hingis would be teamed with just about anyone for the doubles rubber. But Hingis was unable to play, and Bacsinszky's doubles partner was Victorija Golubic, ranked number 178 in the world in doubles. Their opponents were A-Rad and doubles specialist Alicja Rosolska.

No worries--almost. At 5-3 in the third set, Switzerland--specifically, Bacsinszky--served for the tie, and Poland broke. Switzerland broke back, and at 7-all and was able to successfully serve for the rubber and the tie. It was one of the most exciting rubbers I saw all weekend (disclaimer--I wasn't able to rise very, very early to see many of them). The Queen of Mexico may be coming to your territory soon--watch out! And all credit to Golubic, by the way.

Fnally, in the World Group playoffs, there was Canada vs. Romania, a tie that was controversial before it even began. Both Genie Bouchard and Simona Halep declined to participate, then--at the last minute--Bouchard changed her mind, probably to her eternal regret.

Young Francoise Abanda was certainly not expected to defeat Irina-Camelia Begu, but she did, giving Canada the first chance for victory. Then along came Bouchard, who lost to Alexandra Dulgheru. This is, of course, the point at which the story takes a twist. Bouchard and Dulgheru had met before--at the pre-Fed Cup press conference--and Bouchard had declined to shake Dulgheru's hand (she did the same thing to Kristina Kucova in February). Dulgheru laughed it off, then went about the business of tearing into Bouchard on the court, beating the Canadian in straight sets, then delivering some "how do you like me now?" handshake mockery with her team.

So if you're a tennis fan, you already know that Bouchard is slumping like Sugarpova sales at a dentists' convention, but that surely she wouldn't--oh yes she would. Bouchard, in her second singles rubber, lost to Andreea Mitu, a last-minute substitute for Begu on the Romanian team. And while Bouchard is obviously way off of her game, it should be noted--as is often the case in these types of situations--that Mitu was way on hers. She was just superb, and won the rubber in three sets.

That put Albanda in a spotlight she probably never expected in her wildest imagination. She and Dulgheru split sets, then Dulghuru kind of went into "official Romanian mode" and took the final set 6-2, putting Romania into the World Group. It was a strong performance, but Abanda should also be commended for coming close to carrying things to a fifth rubber. 

In World Group II playoffs, Serbia defeated Paraguay, Slovakia defeated Sweden, Belarus defeated Japan, and Spain defeated Argentina. Paula Ormaechea's second rubber, against Lara Arruabarrena, was a heartbreaker for her. She fought furiously to even the third set, her chances looked good, but Arruabarrena won it 9-7.

The Fed Cup stories that will stay with us a while revolve around the extended nature of Genie Bouchard's dramatic slump, the "what were they thinking?" decisions of some of the team captains ( Barbara Rittner, Heinz Guenthardt and--of course--Mary Joe Fernandez) and the enduring strength of both Russia and the Czech Republic. And we all learned more about Andreea Mitu, who--until this weekend--had never beaten a top 50 player (except for Varvara Lepchenko in Charleston, but that was due to Lepchenko's retirement).

10 things my imaginary parrot can't stop saying

"It's gonna be tough"

 "At the end of the day...."

"Maria is such a fighter"

 "I'm just going to play my game"

"She has such a good work ethic"


 "What are you doing, you Czech fool?!"

"Kim Clijsters had a baby"

"She's a great player"


Saturday, April 18, 2015

A non-defense defense of Genie Bouchard

When Genie Bouchard refused to shake the hand of her Fed Cup opponent, Kristina Kucova, before the rubbers began in February, it was hard to believe that she would repeat the act again this weekend, but she did--with Romania's Alexandra Dulgheru. The whole "I don't believe in wishing my opponent good luck" thing is ridiculous since the handshake isn't about "good luck"--it's about sport, and what sport is supposed to represent. One would think that Bouchard wouldn't need to have that explained to her.

But apparently, it's a "thing" with the Canadian star, and undoubtedly one that is part of something more important in Bouchard's worldview. What that might be, I don't pretend to know.

But I do know what it feels like to hold a conviction that goes against the convictions of close to 100% of those who surround you in your culture. Most of the things that I'm told are "good" and "positive" and that people around me support and cherish, I oppose, usually because I find them morally or ethically unacceptable, but sometimes because I find them intrusive or just plain stupid. I believe in fact-finding and fact-checking, and in remembering history, and I'm terrible at denial.

The international female star-making machine may have made a "sweet, beautiful tennis star" out of Genie Bouchard, but if you actually watch Bouchard and listen to her, there's quite an edge there. This is a  woman who sometimes sounds as though her insides are drawn tight as a top. This is a woman who says very tough words but cries on the court. Readers, this is a woman who wore a kimono to a press conference.

I'm sorry that Bouchard chose a benign, but very sporting gesture, to make the object of her "me against the world" stand. I'm reminded of what the White Queen said about Alice in Through the Looking-Glass: "She's in that state of mind that she wants to deny something--only she doesn't know what to deny!"

Believe me, Genie, if you have the will to stand against what everyone around you thinks is "positive," you will make friends with yourself, even in your cultural isolation, and some people will even respect you. But first, do the fact-finding and fact-checking. From my point of view, shaking the hand of your soon-to-be Fed Cup opponent is just plain sporting, and even a social and political iconoclast like I am can't find anything that isn't positive about that.

Czech Republic and Russia go into day 2 of Fed Cup semifinals with clear leads

There's nothing like going into day 2 of a World Group Fed Cup tie with a 2-0 lead (well, unless you're Italy back in February): There's just so much pressure on the opposing team, who cannot lose one rubber. That's the kind of pressure France is bound to feel tomorrow, since the French team went 0-2 to the Czech Republic today. Of course, it was France who came back from 0-2 down against Italy in February, but pulling off another trick like that would be extremely difficult.

Not that the French team has lost any of its sizzle. In fact, it looked for all the world that Caroline Garcia was going to take the first rubber from Lucie Safarova. Garcia held five match points, but she was denied all of them. Safarova defeated her, 4-6, 7-6, 6-1. There is talk, of course, about whether Garcia will be up to playing on day 2; only she knows that.

In the second rubber, Petra Kvitova, back from an extended break, defeated Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 6-4; Mladenovic did make that rubber competitive.

Meanwhile, a German team with no Angelique Kerber and no Andrea Petkovic lost both rubbers to team Russia. Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated Julia Goerges 6-4, 6-4, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova--in match that neither player appeared to want to win--defeated Sabine Lisicki 4-6, 7-6, 6-3. The rubber was a festival of unforced errors and difficult to watch.

I'm not sure why Kerber didn't play, but Petkovic has cited physical and mental exhaustion as of late. She and Kerber are scheduled to play doubles, and I suspect we'll see Kerber, at least, in a singles rubber. I'm not ruling out Petko's singles appearance, but it makes sense to me that she might not play.

In World Group playoffs, Italy and the USA are 1-1, The Netherlands and Australia are 1-1, Poland and Switzerland are 1-1, and Canada and Romania are 1-1. Sam Stosur withdrew from play for Australia because of her injury (not unexpected), and was replaced by Casey Dellacqua, who won her rubber.

Martina Hingis played her first competitive singles match since 2007 and was beaten 6-4, 6-0 by Aga Radwanska. Timea Bacsinszky defeated Ula Radwanska, who will now play Hingis, who is highly favored to win. The other singles rubber, between Aga Radwanska and Bacsinszky, could be interesting, given Bacsinszky's current level of confidence and Rawanska's current level of slumpiness. If it goes to a deciding doubles rubber, Hingis will play for Switzerland, and I think that says it all.

Francoise Abanda of Canada had a great win over Irina-Camelia Begu, which put Canada ahead 1-0. Then Genie Bouchard played Alexandra Dulgheru, and anyone who has followed the Romanian's career knows that closing a match is not her strong suit. Bouchard was, once again, hitting without thinking much (that works sometimes, but usually not), and making all kinds of errors when the tenacious and pesky Dulgheru just kept getting everything back. Because that's what Dulgheru does.

Dulgheru had a match point on Bouchard's serve, but Bouchard saved it. Serving for the match, it was a pretty typical Dulgheru project: There were seven deuces, Dulgheru double-faulted on match point, and on and on until, on her fifth match point, Dulgheru won the rubber, 6-4, 6-4. Dulgheru then made a gesture beyond perfect: She fake hand-shaked the Romanian bench. To do this alone must have been a heavy motivation to win the rubber, never mind getting a point for your country.

Here are the results of the World Group 2 playoffs:

Serbia, 2--Paraguay, 0
Slovakia, 2--Sweden, 0
Japan, 1--Belarus, 1
Argentina, 0--Spain, 2