Racquet Reaction - Fed Cup: Pennetta d. Vandeweghe
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Fed Cup: Pennetta d. Vandeweghe 11/07/2010 - 9:13 PM

Flavia It's a measure of just how much of an underdog the U.S. Fed Cup squad was in the final against Italy that Melanie Oudin's unexpected triumph over Francesca Schiavone stimulated wild hopes and expectations for a remarkable, miracle win by the home team.

The Italians probably just thought, "Hurrmph. That was weird."

All credit to Oudin for pulling out a victory to keep hope alive, with the Americans facing elimination at 0-2. But it was the first match win by a U.S. player or team over Italy in seven tries during these back-to-back finals, both of which have been won by Italy (they swept the U.S. 4-0 in Italy a year ago, almost to the day).

So you just had to know that CoCo Vandeweghe, ranked outside the Top 100 on the WTA computer, would have her work cut out when she followed Oudin onto the court at the San Diego Sports Arena. Vandeweghe was up against No. 23 Flavia Pennetta, who plays well above that ranking in Fed Cup competition. At 18, Vandeweghe is not only green (she's played but a handful of WTA matches), she's built on the Lindsay Davenport big-girl model. And all those moving parts aren't working quite in unison yet.

The other day, Pennetta led Bethanie Mattek-Sands by 5-1 in the first set. But she let that lead slip away and had to eke out a 7-4 tiebreaker win before settling in to close out that match, 7-6 (4), 6-2.  She started slowly today, perhaps because almost everyone assumed that Schiavone would clinch the tie for Italy. The Oudin upset suddenly put a good deal of unexpected pressure on Pennetta, and she played the entire match with Vandeweghe looking like she felt the burden. Yet Vandeweghe was unable to capitalize because her game is simply too loose and undisciplined.

Vandeweghe broke Pennetta to start to match, setting American hearts aflutter, and she used her booming serve to jump ahead 40-o in her first service game. But she began making grevious errors (including two consecutive double-faults), and ended up losing her own serve after a 13-plus minute game. Pennetta again raced to a 5-1 lead, and this time she was able to retain control, albeit not without some anxious moments, winning 6-1, 6-2.

Pennetta, demonstrating the expected veteran wiles, did what she had to do—hang in there, and wait for lapses in the game or concentration of her opponent. This is a woman who, at least with the level of competition she faced today, understood the Brad Gilbert maxim: You don't have to be the best in the world on any given day, you just have to beat the person across the net.

Give Vandeweghe credit for reaching out for the match. She played aggressively and boldly, but she simply didn't have the consistency that's requisite for beating a Top 25 player. One day, when all those different pieces fit together, she may be a dangerous player. Today wasn't that day.

—Pete Bodo

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Posted by Oz 11/08/2010 at 12:06 AM

Nice pic!

Posted by Disgusted 11/08/2010 at 10:42 AM

Coco gets the call to keep Nike and the $$ folks happy and generate a little buzz. An awful lot to ask from someone with so little top 100 experience. Vania had a great US Open and could have been a factor. Cheers to Oudin!! But the US hung it up well before the tie got started for reasons other than wanting to win. A shame.

Posted by Disgusted 2 11/08/2010 at 11:41 AM

I'm disgusted, too. Why so little press about Oudin's win and the crazy decision not to play her on the first day? She's a much higher ranked, more experienced, and smarter player than Coco (who I must say is remarkably brainless on the court, even for her age), and it always made sense to play her on the first day. She may have been in the midst of a sophomore slump this year, but she responds well to pressure, unlike Coco who responds by inevitably giving away her first service games with multiple double faults.

Posted by Hoan Nguyen 11/08/2010 at 03:01 PM

It's not a wise decision by the US captain to pick Coco over Oudin.

Posted by Josh 11/08/2010 at 05:11 PM

Disgusted, I agree with your post. This is the same Mary Jo who has shown her bias toward Maria Sharapova over the William sister because of her husband working for IMG.

Posted by David 11/08/2010 at 11:02 PM

Somebody needs to look into the question of whether Vandeweghe was selected over Oudin because, at least as I understand it from the outside, Vandeweghe is represented by IMG and Oudin is not. Considering the connection Mary Jo Fernandez has with IMG, if I am right on the player-agency relationships described in the previous sentence, something is profoundly wrong here. Looks like a job for an enterprising sports reporter. Anybody out there?

Posted by adam 11/11/2010 at 04:30 PM

mary jo should be fired.

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