Junior Fed Cup 2009 *Shocking news*
USA does not qualify in the North/Central and Caribbean Qualifying competition
The reasons in the following article:
Cup Fall To Murphy’s Law
What might be described as a confluence of conflicting forces spelt ultimate disaster for the United States Junior Fed Cup team in the North/Central and Caribbean Qualifying competition after an extraordinary weekend of tennis played out in an intense atmosphere here at the Evert Academy as well as the Boca West Country Club.
On Sunday afternoon, the scenario had boiled down to this: Mexico had to beat Canada in the last round robin tie to give the United States the chance of making the Junior Fed Cup finals which will be played in Mexico at the end of September. Mexico lost two rubbers to one when Eugenie Bouchard and Marianne Jodain won the pivotal rubber for Canada 6-1, 7-6 and so the American girls are out. Why?
Because, with Mexico guaranteed a place as the host country, only one other team from the four nation group could go through and, as Canada had beaten the States on Friday 2-1, the US needed to have the Canadians beaten to have a chance. Even then it would have come down to matches, and even games, won and lost.
Next question: How did the States lose to Canada? Actually by having two rubbers defaulted. And thereby hangs the tale. While the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup as well as the ITF World Junior Team Competition was being played on clay at the Evert Academy, it was decided to play the American qualifying for a wild card place in the French Open over at the splendid Boca West facility which is located about twelve minutes drive away down Glades Road. Without the benefit of hindsight and that great intangible, Murphy’s Law, this would not have seemed a particularly dangerous thing to do. None of the men in the French Open qualifying were involved in the Junior Davis Cup team (John Isner came through to book his spot at Roland Garros) and if that was not quite true of the girls well….the venues were close by; the two officiating teams were working closely together and the sun was shining and…..and…..
But no matter what the sun was doing outside, in the referee’s office at Evert’s this little black cloud appeared out of nowhere and proceeded to get bigger. Late on Thursday night, with matches due to start at 10:00 am next morning, one member of the US team, Lauren Herring, received a doctor’s report advising her not to play because of a slight irregularity on a blood test. Bad luck for Lauren but, no worries as they say in Melbourne, Nicole Gibbs, a 15-year-old who trains at Carson in Los Angeles, could play the second singles and then the doubles with Esther Goldfeld. Well….maybe.
Gibbs, unlike everyone else playing in the Junior Fed Cup, WAS involved in the qualifying for Roland Garros. Not only that but she was due on court at about the time the US were scheduled to play their second match against Canada. A few worries there, but no real problem, surely, because even if Nicole had to default the second singles she would have time to race back and play the doubles and, with Goldfeld taking care of Marianne Jodain in the opening rubber, the US could still win 2-1.
So, as Gibbs set about the onerous task of trying to beat Sloane Stephens, an African American of powerful build and huge promise, the US reluctantly handed Canada the second rubber on a default after the fifteen minute time lapse had been used up. I was at Boca West at this time, watching both semifinal qualifying matches with Patrick McEnroe and we spoke about Stephens’ potential as she took charge of her match against Gibbs and moved to a one set lead with a break in the second. She was having to work for it, mind you, because Gibbs is one of those players who gets a million balls back and never gives up on a seemingly lost cause. Rafa Nadal would be proud of her. Nevertheless her chances of turning this match around seemed minimal and, with half an hour allowed under ITF rules between the second singles and doubles plus the fifteen minutes grace period over at Evert’s everything seemed under control. But old Murphy was lurking around up there somewhere and, with a rub of his Irish genie, he worked his worse magic. Something went in Stephens’ back. Nothing too serious, certainly not serious enough for her to quit because she does not look like a girl who would be inclined to do that. But serious enough to let Gibbs back in the match. More rallies came and went and the clock was ticking. Officials were staring at the watches and talking urgently into cell phones. Gibbs, doing what you must always do, even in fraught circumstances like this, concentrated first and foremost on the task in hand. She had walked on court with a match to win and she was not about to walk away from it. To their credit none of the USTA officials present suggested that she do so. Sure enough Gibbs won the second set from a break down and began an ultimately successful assault on the third. But, hard as she tried, she couldn’t quite finish quickly enough. Bundled into a car within seconds after closing it out 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, Nicole was half way down Glades Road when the call came through. Too late. Match defaulted. The US lose.
Just to complete her nightmare weekend, Gibbs went back to Boca West the following day and, playing her heart out once more, came up short by 6-3, 7-6 against Lauren Embree, the Eddie Herr winner in Miami last December, and so lost her chance of going to Paris. No Mexico; no France; unable to help your team, what is a girl supposed to do? Turn the page Nicole. It wasn’t your fault and rewards for trying as hard as you do will arrive soon enough.
The rest of the weekend was just an exercise in frustration for captain Roger Smith’s team. Lauren Herring, given the doctor’s OK, was in action on Saturday, winning her singles against Renata Zarazua of Mexico and then wrapping up a 3-0 win in the doubles with Esther Goldfeld. On Sunday, Gibbs re-joined the team to help it demolish the Bahamas, losing only four games in three matches. But when Mexico couldn’t handle Canada, it all came to naught.
In retrospect it was no one’s fault although doubling up on competitions on the same weekend will probably be avoided in the future. Otherwise Murphy will be back in business.
For the American boys it was plain sailing. Led by Jeremy Efferding and Shane Vinsant with Dennis Mkrtchian playing doubles, they swept Mexico and Canada 3-0 and then, on Sunday, defeated a Guatamalan team that seemed to be rich in talent but lacking in know-how.
For anyone who enjoys seeing where the next generation is coming from, the talent on view at Evert’s these past few days would have been exciting even without the drama. It was evident from the little – frequently consoling – tete a tets with young players in corners of the player lounge or behind some courts, that coaches take their jobs very seriously, as they need to. The kids looked as if they were having fun but no one needs to tell them what kind of competitive world they are headed for and the dedication required would put the average teenager to shame.
I was interested to see that the USTA had sent half a dozen boys over to Barcelona for a six week immersion on European clay and that they had returned, wearier, wiser but generally in one piece. They will certainly be better tennis players and better informed young men as a result of that European experience.
By the end of this week I will be heading in that direction myself; first to Madrid where Ion Tiriac and the City of Madrid are about to unveil the newest and boldest addition to the sport’s infrastructure – the Caja Majica. Having seen it half built, I can assure you that it is a magic box and all we can hope for is some magic tennis and that each of the three sliding roofs over the three main courts open and close when instructed.
Which reminds me of the best answer to a silly question at a recent press conference. At Wimbledon a couple of weeks ago, All England Club chairman Tim Phillips was showing off the splendid looking semi-transparent roof over the Centre Court. “It will take about eight to ten minutes to close when you push the button and another 20 to 30 minutes for the air management system to create the correct conditions for play,” Phillips explained.
“Who gets to push the button?” someone asked.
“The button pusher,” Phillips shot back.
They tend to have most of the answers at Wimbledon.
But I, being poor, have only my dreams
I have spread my dreams under your feet
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams