Friday, November 6, 2009
Glatch to take on Pennetta in opener
REGGIO CALABRIA, Italy -- Flavia Pennetta can settle her score with American Alexa Glatch in the opening match of the Fed Cup final.
Italy meets the United States on a slow red clay court in the best-of-five series beginning Saturday at the Rocco Polimeni club.
Glatch routed Pennetta 6-1, 6-1 in the first round of the French Open. That's been the only blemish on a career year for Pennetta, who won back-to-back titles in Palermo, Sicily, and Los Angeles en route to becoming the first female Italian player to reach the top 10 in August.
"I really didn't play well the first time and she had nothing to lose," said the now 11th-ranked Pennetta on Friday. "Hopefully it will go better this time. I'm going to get together a better game plan with Corrado [Barazzutti, the Italy captain]."
Glatch acknowledged that "it's going be a lot different than last time."
Francesca Schiavone, will face U.S. Open quarterfinalist Melanie Oudin in the second singles on Saturday. Schiavone and the 18-year-old Oudin have also met once before, with the Italian routing the youngster 6-1, 6-1 last year in Indian Wells, Calif.
Oudin, who also reached the fourth round at Wimbledon this year, burst into the spotlight with her U.S. Open run. She said the last meeting with Schiavone felt like it took place "three years ago."
"She was very experienced and she handled me pretty easily. But I think I've improved a lot since then," Oudin said. "She's been playing amazing as well. We've both had good years, so I think it's going to be a really good match tomorrow."
The 16th-ranked Schiavone has tended to save her best performances for Fed Cup, when she came from a set down to defeat Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semifinals. Lately, Schiavone has also played well on tour -- winning a $1 million title in Moscow and reaching the final in Osaka, Japan, last month.
"[Oudin] has matured and improved a lot since then," Schiavone said. "I saw her at the U.S. Open and I have a lot of respect for her. I'm going to have to use my experience and physical strength to do my best."
Reverse singles are set for Sunday, plus a possible decisive doubles match featuring Liezel Huber and Vania King of the United States against Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci.
The combination of rankings, clay courts and experience makes Italy a clear favorite, but the hosts are under pressure playing at home.
"I always think the home country feels the pressure a lot more," U.S. captain Mary Joe Fernandez said. "In a final, there's an added dimension. I think when you play for your country, it's a different sort of tension, sort of nerves. It's hard to describe, but you definitely feel it a lot more."
Italy is playing its third final in four years, having upset Justine Henin and Belgium to take the 2006 title. The U.S. has won a record 17 Fed Cups but none since 2000.
"We're taking it very seriously to try to bring it back home, that's our goal," Fernandez said. "It would be a thrill, because it has been a very long time."