Australia’s longest summer of tennis ends with Fed Cup play-offs berth

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    Six weeks after it started, the longest Australian summer of tennis is finally over.

    It started with a Hopman Cup tie between Russia and the United States in Perth way back on 30 December last year and ended with Australia’s Fed Cup team advancing to the world group play-off after defeating Ukraine 3-2.

    Instrumental to the victory was Ashleigh Barty, who contributed all three points in singles and doubles, the latter with her partner in crime Casey Dellacqua.

    Barty kicked things off by coming from a set down to defeat Lyudmyla Kichenok before Marta Kostyuk, who was making her Fed Cup debut at the age of 15, hit back by defeating Daria Gavrilova in straight sets.

    That left things at one all at the end of the first day.

    In the first of the two reverse singles on Sunday Barty scored her second singles win by defeating Kostyuk in straight sets, but Gavrilova slumped to her second singles defeat, going down to Nadiia Kichenok, who had replaced her twin sister Lyudmyla for the fourth rubber, after taking the first set.

    It ensured that the tie would be decided in the doubles, which pitted the pairing of Barty and Casey Dellacqua up against the Kichenok twins.

    The Australian pairing, which reached four grand slam doubles finals before the former took a break from the sport in September 2014, won in straight sets to advance to the world group play-off, where it will play one of the eight world group first-round losers in April.

    If Australia wins that play-off, it will return to the world group for the first time since 2015. Their opponents for that tie will be decided by way of a draw later this week.

    The Australian Fed Cup team’s win wraps up just about the longest Australian summer of tennis possible. That being said, let’s quickly recap what has been an exciting past six weeks.

    It started on 30 December last year with the first tie between Russia and the United States at the Hopman Cup in Perth. Switzerland went on to win their third Cup, with Roger Federer winning his second title after pairing with Martina Hingis to win the 2001 edition.

    Nick Kyrgios claimed his fourth career crown in Brisbane, while Daniil Medvedev lifted his first in Sydney after coming from a set down to defeat Alex de Minaur in the final.

    At the first major tournament of the year, the Australian Open, Federer claimed his milestone 20th grand slam title by defeating Marin Cilic in the final in five sets, while on the other side of the spectrum Caroline Wozniacki won her first by defeating Simona Halep in a dramatic three-set final.

    Nearly a month after Kyrgios saluted in Brisbane, the Canberran returned to the sunshine capital to marshal Australia’s Davis Cup tie against Germany, providing the only point by way of a straight-sets win over Jan-Lennard Struff as the Aussies went down by 3-1, leaving them to fight for world group survival in September.

    However, the Fed Cup team would salvage some national pride, defeating a Ukraine side that was missing their top two players in Elina Svitolina and Lesia Tsurenko by 3-2, with Ashleigh Barty providing all three points, the latter with her doubles partner Casey Dellacqua.

    (AFP Photo / Timothy A. Clary).

    This will be the last tennis action Australia witnesses until at least the second-last weekend of April when the Fed Cup world group play-offs will take place, though this will depend on who the country is drawn against.

    It also remains to be seen which country Australia’s Davis Cup team will be drawn against in their world group play-off, which is scheduled for the weekend of 14 to 16 September, the week after the US Open.

    As far as the tennis season is concerned, focus now switches to the Middle East with the pair of tournaments in Doha and Dubai for the women, while in the men’s division there is a tournament in Rotterdam this week.

    At the latter tournament Roger Federer has the chance to reclaim the world number one ranking for the first time since November 2012, but he may have to defeat his countryman Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals to do so.

    The reigning Australian Open men’s champion has accepted a wildcard into the main draw; if he does unseat Rafael Nadal at the top of the rankings, he will become the oldest man in tennis history to be ranked world number one.

    The next major tournament of the year is the French Open, which starts on 27 May.

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    The Crowd Says (1)

    • February 12th 2018 @ 5:37pm
      Brissie Boy said | February 12th 2018 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

      Pretty shocking couple of singles matches from Daria but good to see the Aussies go through regardless. Barty in particular, performed creditably under the burden of heavy favouritism and the under-performance of her teammate.

      Gavrilova remains an enigma: someone who can win or lose to anyone on any given day. How else do you explain the performances of someone who has taken down top 10 players multiple times and yet has just lost to an opponent who hadn’t played a pro singles match in over a year?

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