Records Look set to Tumble in Gran Canaria
Facts, figures and records do not of course determine any tennis match but they can throw an interesting light on a contest. Certainly tennis historians and students of the game will be focussing on the exploits of the Spanish pairing, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Conchita Martinez, in Maspalomas during the Fed Cup Semifinals and Final. Sanchez-Vicario is the proud holder of Fed Cup record totals for number of matches won and number of singles wins, records she achieved during the first round tie this year against Hungary. She will be seeking to improve her current figures of 71 and 49 respectively.
If she does line up against Austria as expected, then Sanchez-Vicario will also be playing in her 57th Fed Cup tie, which will equal the record currently held by Virginia Wade of Great Britain. Should Sanchez-Vicario team up with Conchita Martinez for a doubles match at any point during the week, the pair will have the opportunity to extend their record as Fed Cup Win / Loss doubles leaders – they presently stand at 18-3.
If Spain reach the final, and the tie comes down to the doubles, then it is a fair bet that Martinez and Sanchez-Vicario would be given the responsibility of going into battle for the team. Twice before they have played in a doubles match for the Fed Cup title, and on both occasions they have won. In 1991 they overcame the American pairing of Gigi Fernandez and Zina Garrison 36 61 61, while in 1998 they crushed the dreams of the Swiss with a 60 62 win over Martina Hingis and Patty Schnyder.
Martinez will also be gunning for personal records. She is at the moment placed third on the all-time list for singles wins in Fed Cup, with 42. That means that, in theory – if she plays and wins two singles matches per tie with Spain reaching the final – she could pass Helena Sukova's total of 45 singles wins for second place in the list behind Sanchez-Vicario. And if either Martinez or Sanchez-Vicario reach the final and play in it, they will break the record for the most appearances in a Fed Cup Final. They currently share the record, for nine final appearances, with two Americans – Billie Jean King and Chris Evert.
Although the two Spanish Fed Cup stalwarts will be centre stage as far as individual player records are concerned, the other nations competing will have the chance to make their own bit of Fed Cup history. Austria could become the first unseeded nation ever to win the World Group Final, if they can get there. There have only been two unseeded finalists before now – Netherlands in 1997 (lost 1-4 to France) and Russia in 1999 (lost 1-4 to USA). Certainly another unseeded finalist coming so soon after these previous ones would lend even more credibility to the belief that the Fed Cup, and women's tennis in general, is growing in depth all the time.
If they find themselves 2-0 down at any point during the week, Austria will undoubtedly take heart from the fact that they came back from that deficit in 1999, against Australia in a World Group II first round tie. Barbara Schett in particular will remember that occasion since she won her second singles and teamed with Barbara Schwartz to win the deciding doubles. There have been only two other such comebacks since the Fed Cup changed its format in 1995.
To win the famous Rose Bowl trophy, Austria, Italy and the Slovak Republic are all in the position of having to do so in what would be their first appearance in a Fed Cup Final. Of the 12 nations who have reached a final, only five have emerged victorious from their debut final – USA, South Africa, Czech Republic, France and Belgium.
So what does all this mean? Well, apart from making the recall of Conchita Martinez to the Spanish team a little easier to understand, perhaps not that much, at least in terms of the outcome of the ties. For when the players take to the court in Maspalomas, records will probably not be at the forefront of their thoughts – winning for their country will.