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tennisIlove09
Nov 20th, 2003, 07:55 PM
Shaughnesssy struggles; Billie Jean having trouble coaching her
U.S. squad moves into final
By Sandra Harwitt
Special to ********************


Susan Mullane/Camerawork USA
FROM THE FED CUP IN MOSCOW – Put the name Kirsten Flipkens into your memory bank because the 17-year-old Belgian junior is poised to follow in the footsteps of two very famous countrywomen – world No. 1 Justine Henin-Hardenne and No. 2 Kim Clijsters.

Flipkens, who won the junior girls’ title at Wimbledon and the US Open earlier this year, is the No. 1 junior in the world. With both Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters taking a pass on the Fed Cup festivities here in Moscow, the Belgians sent an early career call to duty to Flipkens.

Clearly a talent of champion quality in the making, Flipkens came to her match against Meghann Shaughnessy on the opening day without heavy expectations weighing over her head, even when considering Els Callens had already put the Belgians in a 1-0 hole against the US. In remarkable fashion, Flipkens rose to the occasion, although in the end a lack of experience worked against her as Shaughnessy won the three-hour, 12-minute encounter 6-7 (4), 7-6 (18), 9-7.

Flipkens has never played on a stage so important but when Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters opted out of the competition in protest, the top junior was called into action. The talk around the tour this year has been that Belgium had another female star waiting in the wings and Flipkens certainly lived up to that billing in the semifinal. Displaying a mature and quite developed game style during her Fed Cup debut, Flipkens is definitely a fighter. The Belgian has a complete compliment of shot making in her arsenal and she covers ground on the court with ease. She has wonderful passing shots and does not seem to be allergic to visiting the net. It was easy to see she plays with a spirited love for the game and is driven by the desire for success. Even though she was not the player who was favored in the match, she treated every point as if it was a matter of life and death, clearly believing she should come out the victor in the encounter. "It’s always not easy to be in this kind of match for more than three hours," Flipkens said. "It was my first match in Fed Cup and I had some great performance."

If one had a skeptical outlook on things, they would have believed the inexperienced Flipkens would have folded in the third set after failing to capitalize on her one match point at 7-6 in the tiebreaker when she made a forehand error. But Flipkens showed the stuff she’s made of by holding her own in the final set. It wasn’t until the 16th game of the final set that Flipkens let go of the match.

Shaughnessy, who picked up her game dramatically in the final set, hit a forehand crosscourt volley at 30-30 to organize a match point at 30-40 and watched the Belgian’s ball hit the net to end the match.
The one thing that Flipkens hadn’t handled is running so many miles in a match – a scenario that found her receiving leg massages on the ground during every changeover in the third set. That resulted in her not being in the physical condition to contemplate returning to the court on Thursday for the reverse singles match ‚ a role she handed over to Kim Clijsters younger sister, Elke.

Why Does Shaughnessy Struggle?
Of course, one question that needs to be asked is why Shaughnessy tends to get nervous in situations where she should be the confident player on the court. Granted, Flipkens was an unfamiliar foe to Shaughnessy and the unknown can be tricky for a veteran player. But the team had done their job by scouting Flipkens during practice earlier in the week and certainly they had heard the rumors that the kid was good. And then there’s the 6-3, 7-6 (5) loss to Els Callens the following day which certainly left the No. 17 ranked Shaughnessy, the so-called leading singles player of the American squad, in less than a leadership role. "I was a little bit tired after the match yesterday and Els was impressive in the match so all the credit goes to her," Shaughnessy said. "Hopefully, we can win the tie and then look forward to playing on Saturday and Sunday."

Admittedly, Shaughnessy seems to be a hard person to coach and captain Billie Jean King wasn’t sure of what was the best tactic to both settle and motivate her top singles player on the team.

"Sometimes I say nothing out there and sit far away or stand far away," said King, who will have another shot at tutoring Shaughnessy in the final on Saturday and Sunday. "Other times, I get right in her face and yell and scream. I never know what’s the right thing to do."

Shaughnessy acknowledged that King should not feel badly about her indecision in handling her since she insists that, "That’s a difficult question that my coach of 11 years hasn’t figured out yet."

U.S. squad moves into final
Courtesy of veteran Lisa Raymond, the American team shuffled into the Fed Cup final with a 4-1 decision. Raymond who played precision tennis for a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Callens in the first match and a 6-2, 6-1 win over Elke Clijsters, who substituted for Flipkens in the reverse singles on Thursday. And then putting on her doubles hat, she partnered with Martina Navratilova for a 6-1, 6-4 win over Clijsters and Caroline Maes.

Navratilova improved her Fed Cup record to 29-0, although of the 18 doubles matches she’s played in the international team competition, only two of them have been matches that counted towards the outcome of the tie. The U.S., who will face either Russia or France in the final, is looking for their 18th Fed Cup title in the 40-years of the competition. Both Russia and France are fielding weightier teams than the Belgians organized so it could be an uphill battle.

Pamela Shriver
Nov 20th, 2003, 08:00 PM
Pffffffffft when am I going to be given a go being Fed Cup captain!?