With all the talk of the supremacy of Belgian tennis at the moment, and the plaudits rightly being heaped on the World’s top two players, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne, you have to feel a little sorry for the nation’s No.3 player, veteran Fed Cupper Els Callens.
Callens, 33, has been a Fed Cup stalwart for years and has won more Fed Cup doubles matches than any other Belgian, yet the success of her more illustrious countrywomen meant that she seemed destined to be in the shadows. That could all change come the semifinals, with Callens named in the squad to face the USA and, as the highest-ranked member of that squad, likely to play as the No. 1 singles player and in the doubles as well.
This is unlikely to faze the jovial Callens.
“It is normally a bit tough to get a singles berth at the moment,” she laughs.
“I’ve had some good singles wins but of course I don't usually play because it’s obvious the two best players in the world should play.
"I’m the third person and I always have to be ready ...it’s not like I can totally relax. I always have to be ready. Belgian tennis is on such a high at the moment. You can see it at the Grand Slams, before there didn’t used to be any fans coming to watch us and now, especially with Kim No.1 and Justine No.2; it’s a great tennis boom. Everyone is really into it and is watching all the semis and finals on TV.
"I think every little kid in Belgium wants to play tennis right now. It’s great for the sport and great for the country.”
Callens says she loves team tennis and although she is disappointed the semifinals against the USA and the final will not be played in Belgium, she can’t wait to take on the Americans.
“I always like Fed Cup, it’s a great atmosphere and playing the US is playing the team to beat,” she says.
“If you take the best players in both teams then Belgium and the United States could be seeded one and two and it’s a shame they are playing in the semifinals. I think it will be a great meeting and it’s definitely going to be difficult because, like us, the US is a good team which sticks together and wants to succeed. They will be motivated to beat us.”
Callens says that she is looking forward to the pressure of representing her country, even if this time she will effectively be leading the team.
“It’s a team sport and I love playing in such a good team,” she says.
“Most of the time at tournaments you are playing for yourself and for Fed Cup you play for a team and a country and so it really does matter when you lose because you let your team down. It puts extra pressure on you but I like that kind of pressure because when you get a great spirit in a team it really is the best feeling.”
The Belgian Tennis Federation has announced that their team for the Fed Cup World Group Semifinals and Final will be Els Callens, Caroline Maes, Elke Clijsters and Kirsten Flipkens.
Belgium will play the United States in the semifinals on 19-20 November at Moscow’s Olympic Stadium, with the American team already announced as Meghann Shaughnessy, Lisa Raymond, Alexandra Stevenson and Martina Navratilova. The winner of this tie will face the winner of the France versus Russia semifinal in the final on 22-23 November.
Flipkens, 17, is currently No. 1 in the ITF Junior World Rankings and is in contention to end the year in the top spot following her back-to-back victories at Wimbledon and the US Open. She will be making her Fed Cup debut in Moscow. The other teenager on the team, 18-year-old Elke Clijsters, was 2002 ITF Junior World Doubles Champion. This will be her second Fed Cup tie, having played doubles in Belgium’s quarterfinal loss to Italy in July 2002.
Callens was part of the 2001 Belgium team that won the nation’s first Fed Cup title in 2001.
Changes to the team can still be made ahead of the deadline for official nominations on Sunday 9 November. Please visit www.fedcup.com for the latest news in the countdown to the Semifinals and Final.
Nov 9th, 2003, 08:39 AM
Good luck girls! The entire Belgian nation is behind you!
Nov 9th, 2003, 01:56 PM
:worship: very beautyful Bram
Nov 9th, 2003, 02:48 PM
Thx Bram! :D
ELSJE :D KIRSTEN :D CARO :) ELKE :) EVELYNE :D
Nov 9th, 2003, 04:07 PM
COME ON BELGIUM :bounce: :bounce:
Nov 11th, 2003, 06:34 PM
:yippee: Good Luck Belgian Girls!!!!! :yippee:
Nov 18th, 2003, 12:49 PM
Els - Lisa
good luck girlz
Nov 18th, 2003, 12:58 PM
Good luck Belgium :D
Kirsten :bounce: :bounce:
Nov 19th, 2003, 06:17 AM
COME ON BELGIUM :bounce: :bounce: :bounce:
Nov 19th, 2003, 09:48 AM
Nov 19th, 2003, 11:37 AM
go els, kirsten, elke and caroline!!!
Nov 19th, 2003, 12:05 PM
Kirsten :sad: But I see a bright future for you...
Nov 19th, 2003, 12:24 PM
:sad: I guess I'm becoming a fan of Kirsten as well :D
Nov 20th, 2003, 07:35 AM
Els won :woohoo: She pointed Kirsten with her finger to show her that she took Kirsten's revenge :bounce:
Now, it's Elke who will play the 4th match............... Do your best Elke try to win some games