The first round Fed Cup match between the US and Germany is being played at the Tennis Club Ettenheim in Ettenheim, Germany. As the players filed off the clay court after the opening ceremonies, six women in beautiful satin gowns with large hoop skirts paraded past the net carrying large staffs that could have been mistaken for medieval jousting lances except for their forked ends. I am probably mistaken, if they were martial weapons, women wouldn’t be carrying them, but Ettenheim has been around since 800 so it’s easy for my imagination to see medieval jousting battles in this small town in the middle of the Black Forest.
I’m sure you didn’t realize that jousting is the state sport of Maryland. Don’t worry, it’s ring jousting not mortal combat. The winner is the one who can poke their lance through the smallest ring.
Get used to it. Davenport is on the down side, Venus is uncommitted, and Serena is missing in action. This is the face of women’s tennis for the foreseeable future.
Jamea Jackson’s job might be harder than that. She’s ranked number 75 in the world and her opponent in the first rubber was number 14 ranked Anna Lena Groenefeld.
The US Fed Cup team, coached by Zina Garrison, has one thirty-two year old, Jill Craybas, and three youngsters: Jackson is nineteen; Shenay Perry, ranked number 88, is twenty-one; and Vania King, number 91, is also nineteen. Get used to it. Davenport is on the down side, Venus is uncommitted, and Serena is missing in action. This is the face of women’s tennis for the foreseeable future.
There’s a lot to be said for having nothing to lose. This is Jackson’s first Fed Cup appearance and she’s not supposed to beat Groenefeld. Groenefeld is leading her country and the pressure seemed to affect her. She hit double faults and made poor shot choices. Jackson won the first set easily, 6-2.
Groenefeld made her way back into the match with fits and starts. At 3-3 in the second set, she broke Jackson. Serving for the second set at 5-3, she was all the way back. Her serve was working and she hit three balls behind Jackson for winners to take the second set 6-3. I expected her to take over now but it didn’t happen.
Jackson got a break point at 3-2 in the second set and Groenefeld over-hit the ball – she still seemed anxious – to give Jackson the game. No one wanted this match. In the next game, Jackson hit two ugly backhand overheads in a row – how can you hit a two-handed overhead on a high ball, I ask you? – and gave the break back.
I have to give Jackson credit, she’s in the bottom 25 the top 100, not the top 25, yet she was doing what she had to do: use her quickness to get the ball back and hit winners when the opportunity presented itself. She couldn’t afford mistakes, though. At 4-4, she hit a double fault then Groenefeld followed her return to the net to get a break point. Groenefeld’s next return was a beautiful inside out forehand that landed on the line and she was ready to serve for the match. Surely now she would take over.
Nope, four straight errors. This was a match where you could skip the first two sets, much of the third and watch the last few games without really missing a lot
Jackson got a match point when Groenefeld hit another double fault while serving at 5-6. After the fourth deuce of the game, Groenefeld hit an error to give Jackson her second match point. One more Groenefeld error and Jackson had the match, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
Craybas beat Julia Schruff, 4-6 , 6-2, 7-5, to put the US up 2-0. The US should be able to take one of the three matches tomorrow. The doubles follow the reverse singles in Fed Cup unlike Davis Cup where the doubles come in the middle day. The young US team has now gone from underdog to favorite. Hopefully they can handle the pressure better than Groenefeld did.