Germany returns to the top level
Germany are back in the elite group of the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas after a dramatic weekend’s tennis in Frankfurt.
At close of play on Saturday, Barbara Rittner’s team were 2-0 up and cruising, but the Chinese team came right back into the tie, levelling it a 2-2 after Sunday's singles matches.
It all came down to a deciding doubles rubber with Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Sabine Lisicki taking on Jie Zheng and Shuai Peng, with the home team fighting back from a set down to eventually clinch a 46 75 62 victory in two hours and eight minutes.
"I want to have this match on DVD!" - Rittner
“We kept on fighting, further and further. The crowd was fantastic. It was great,” Groenefeld said, who converted the third match point with a backhand down the line.
“That was the most exciting tie I ever had. My girls played so well in the doubles and I want to have this match on DVD! But I also have to give credit to Groenefeld and Tatjana Malek in their singles matches. Of course, I would have loved a 3-0 after the first singles match, but I am more than happy,” said Germany’s team captain Barbara Rittner.
China will now be relegated to World Group II for the first time since 2006.
“We were not lucky today,” Jie Zheng said. “We had a good chance to finish the match in two sets and in the final set we were tired and the Germans played unbelievably well. I hope we can return into the World Group next year.”
Earlier today, Shuai Peng had brought China right back into the match with a 62 26 75 victory over Tatjana Malek, to take the tie it down to the wire.
Malek was a late replacement for Sabine Lisicki, who was feeling the strain from her tour victory last week. Explaining the substitution, Barbara Rittner said, “After the stresses and strains in Charleston, Sabine crossed the limit yesterday and she had no chance to recharge her batteries over night. She is tired and was not fit for the forth rubber.”
Malek, ranked No. 131, gave it everything in a dramatic rubber against No. 35 Shuai Peng, who took the first set easily. However, Malek came straight back at her to win the second, but in the third set, found herself 2-5 down with Peng serving for the match. The German then staged an amazing comeback, saving three match points, but at 5-5 Malek lost her serve again and Peng managed to converted her fifth match point to close out the match.
“I had a bad start, but kept on trying to play my game. I said to myself: Keep on fighting and at the end, I was probably a bit unlucky,” Malek said.
In the first rubber of the day, Jie Zheng scored China's first point with a 75 64 victory over Anna-Lena Groenefeld.
The German had numerous chances in the first set leading 5-3 and 5-4 on her own serve, and then at 30-30, double faulted for the first time. Zheng took her chance and levelled and then went on to close out the set winning four games in a row.
In the second set, everything went with serve until 5-4, when Zheng broke Groenefeld to take the match.
“I have to give credit to Zheng, she played a great match. She played consistently powerfully from the end of the first set and hardly missed a shot from then on. She showed why she is a top 20-player,” Groenefeld said.
“I tried to push back the balls in the first set when Anna-Lena started strong. Then I changed a bit my serve, played more aggressively. I started to move her around and in the second set I was in control,” Zheng said.
This wasn’t to prove enough for China, who now go to World Group II for the first time since 2006, as Germany showed great team spirit in the deciding doubles rubber and through the whole tie, to come out on top and maintain its World Group status for 2010.