Austrians Face Tough Task Against France
The draw has been made for Austria v France World Group I tie in Portschach, Austria :
Yvonne Meusburger (AUT) v Nathalie Dechy (FRA)
Tamira Paszek (AUT) v Amelie Mauresmo (FRA)
Yvonne Meusburger (AUT) v Amelie Mauresmo (FRA)
Tamira Paszek (AUT) v Nathalie Dechy (FRA)
Sandra Klemenschits/Yvonne Meusburger (AUT) v Mary Pierce/Virginie Razzano (FRA)
French Fed Cup captain Georges Goven says he will be looking to stamp out any complacency this weekend as his team contest what looks like an extremely one-sided first round encounterwith Austria.
Fed Cup finalists for the past two years - winning the competition in 2003, before losing narrowly to Russia in 2004 - the French line up with four players from the world's top 40. World No. 3 Amelie Mauresmo spearheads the attack, followed by Nathalie Dechy (15), former French and Australian Open winner Mary Pierce (27) and Virginie Razzano (36).
Austria, on the other hand, has been hard hit by the retirements of Barbara Schett and Patricia Wartusch, as well as the ongoing injury problems of Barbara Schwartz, who has been out of action since injuring an Achilles tendon in November. In their place, Austrian captain Alfred Tesar has been forced to concentrate on youth, most notably with the inclusion of 14-year-old debutant Tamira Paszek.
In a surprise announcement on Friday, Tesar said Paszek would be playing in the singles rubbers on Saturday at the expense of the more experienced world No. 155 Sybille Bammer - a decision which prompted Bammer to withdraw from the squad.
"I think Amelie Mauresmo's playing style would not be so good for Sybille," Tesar said on Friday after being forced to promote reserve player Daniella Klemenschits to the team. "I told Sybille of my decision in the morning. She accepted it but has decided to leave here, so I had to change the team."
In Saturday's opening singles rubber, Dechy has been drawn against Yvonne Meusburger -- the highest ranked Austrian squad
member at 131st in the world. In the second rubber, Mauresmo will take on Paszek, in a potentially lop-sided encounter between the French star and the Austrian schoolgirl. On Sunday the teenager will then face Dechy before Meusburger goes up against Mauresmo. Meusburger and Sandra Klemenschits are finally due to meet Pierce and Razzano in the closing doubles match.
Given the relative weakness of his side, Tesar insisted that just winning a set against the French would be a form of success.
His French counterpart, however, was keen to play down that suggestion.
"I know Tesar and he's a smart guy who's probably playing a lot on that. It's all part of the psychological war that goes on
at these events but we'll just try to stay concentrated," said Goven. "Obviously our girls know that they are favourites and the
worse thing would be if they go on court over-confident, because that could stop them playing their normal tennis. We know on the day many things can happen, so it's my job to make sure the girls don't fall into any traps."
Mauresmo certainly seemed to be reading from the same script as she contemplated Saturday's match against her schoolgirl
"I don't know too much about her," said the world No. 3. "But we weren't too surprised about her nomination because we'd seen the way she was training all week. Obviously when you don't know your opponent, you just have to concentrate on what you do best, on your own game and what you're able to do. That's something we'll have to do anyway all weekend. Obviously on paper we're the strongest team but we have to make sure that it happens on the court as well."
As well as having a clear advantage when it comes to their individual members, the French team would appear to have history
on their side. France and Austria have met four times in the Fed Cup, with Austria so far failing to win a single rubber.
Career high ranking: 6 (16/10/2005)
Current Ranking: 40, 789 pts, 35 tournaments
2007 race to the championship: 26, 293 pts, 8 tournaments
Year-end Ranking: 2006 - 46, 2005 - 8, 2004 - 63, 2003 - 146
Winner: 2006 - Beijing, 2005 - Sydney, Budapest, Hasselt
Runner-up: 2006 - Prague, 2005 - Hyderabad, Forest Hills, Los Angeles YEC
Semifinal: 2006 - Paris, Bogota, 2004 - Sopot
Quarterfinal: 2005 - Prague, Modena, 2004 - Indian Wells, Stockholm, Seoul, Filderstadt