Vandeweghe suffers ‘rookie nerves,’ loss in Fed Cup debut
By Don Norcross
Originally published November 6, 2010 at 11:20 p.m., updated November 6, 2010 at 11:42 p.m.
Coco Vandeweghe is angry at herself for missing a shot during loss to Italy's Francesca Schiavone.
CoCo Vandeweghe exited the tennis court near tears. Bethanie Mattek-Sands departed with a limp, then cried. And that about summarizes Saturday afternoon for the United States on Day 1 of the Fed Cup final against Italy.
The Americans find themselves down 2-0 after Francesca Schiavone handed Rancho Santa Fe’s CoCo Vandeweghe a 6-4, 6-2 loss in Vandeweghe’s Fed Cup debut, followed by Flavia Pennetta’s 7-6 (4), 6-2 defeat of Mattek-Sands.
Now, a piece of history. Since the Fed Cup moved to a five-match format in 1995, no country has hoisted the Cup after trailing 2-love.
Asked what she’ll do for a pep talk, U.S. captain Mary Joe Fernandez smiled, then said, “Do you guys have any ideas?”
An intimate but boisterous crowd announced at 3,538 filed into Valley View Casino Arena (formerly the Sports Arena), filled with typical Fed Cup fervor. Red, white and blue was the clothing color of choice. Cowbells rang. Drummers drummed.
Best sign: “Ellsworth, Maine We Traveled 3,308 miles.”
Vandeweghe’s alliterative first name was a favorite cry, even by a toddler who ignored tennis decorum and yelled a faint “CoCo” in the middle of her serve.
U.S. doubles specialist Liezel Huber jokingly said Friday that she expected a first-serve ace out of Vandeweghe on her opening game. Vandeweghe went one better, cracking an ace, then a service winner for a 30-love lead in the opening game.
Said Schiavone: “I say, ‘Oh, god, today is tough.’”
Vandeweghe, though, would succumb to nerves, losing the lead, then the game, double-faulting on the last two points.
“Rookie nerves,” CoCo confessed.
She also had no answer for Schiavone’s serve, winning only two of 18 points in the first set.
“I think (CoCo) was a little unlucky not to win that first service game,” Fernandez said. “I think that would have calmed her down even more.”
The 6-foot-1 Vandeweghe finally broke Schiavone in the second set’s eighth game to even things at 4-4. But she couldn’t hold serve, then Twatched the reigning French Open champion nail down matters, sweeping the final four points.
“I’m disappointed in myself,” Vandeweghe said. “I’m disappointed that I let the team down a little bit. Of course, I’d like to start out with a win. That I didn’t do that, of course, I was upset. I had my time to kind of vent a little bit.”
How’d she vent?
Vandeweghe faced a monumental task. She was making her Fed Cup debut at 18, against the 30-year-old Schiavone, who’s ranked seventh in the world, compared to Vandeweghe’s 114. Schiavone was playing her 38th Fed Cup match.
And the Italian’s athletic, all-court game — a mixture of top-spin baseline power, slice backhands and deft volleys — was too much for Vandeweghe, who was facing the Italian for the first time.
“To find my own rhythm within her repertoire of shots was kind of the key in the match,” Vandeweghe said. “That did take me a little bit of time to figure out.”
Fernandez summarized the match succinctly.
“Schiavone was too good,” said the captain.
Mattek-Sands trailed Pennetta 5-1 in the first set, won five straight games, had a set point against Pennetta’s serve at 5-6, 30-40 then watched Pennetta crack a winning volley. Pennetta controlled matters the rest of the way.
As if trying to fend off the Italians today isn’t challenging enough, Fernandez might not be able to call upon Mattek-Sands. She said she was bothered by sinus problems and a sore throat during the week, which contributed to her cramping and limping late in the second set.
Of her availability, Mattek-Sands said, “We’ll see.”
As for the Italians, they’re poised to celebrate their third Fed Cup title in the past five years. Their secret?
“The reason is I have great players,” said Italian captain Corrado Barazzutti. “That is the secret to this team. They are very, very good.”
To which a smiling Pennetta replied, “I agree. We are very good.”