Photo: Dennis G. IljushenkovWorld Team Championship 2012
MOSCOW, RUSSIA: The much anticipated semifinal between top seeds Italy and third seeds France did not disappoint. So far in the Championship neither nation had lost a set so it was no surprise that the crowds gathered for the confrontation.
The ladies were first on court and the Italians looked confident as they sent the joint world number ones and current world champions onto the court. The French it seemed were not to be intimidated however.
Neck and neck throughout the first set, the French were the first to have a chance as they found themselves serving at 5-4. But only able to win one point, the score was quickly levelled to 5-5. Breaking again, the French once again were serving for the set and this time made no mistake. They converted a 40-0 lead on the third attempt to take the set 75 and send a clear message to Italy.
The message was received loud and clear and the Italians looked like a new team in the second set storming to ahead to take the set 60. Desperate to get back on the scoreboard, the French took the first game in the third set and it looked set to be a long battle.
The Italians however refused to take any risks and proved too consistent as the French could not find a way past their impenetrable defence. As the big points continued to go in Italy’s favour, the French were unable to take another game, finally losing the match 57 60 61.
The pressure was now on the French men to keep their nation in the tie but this was no easy task given the opponents they faced.
The French were unable to get any rhythm in the first set as Luca Meliconi and Alessandro Calbucci got off to the perfect start winning the opening set 61. Winning only three points in as many games the French were in serious trouble as they trailed 3-0 in the second set.
A big serve at deciding point deuce though and the French were back on the scoreboard. But there success was shortlived as the soon found themselves at 5-1 and another deciding point deuce to stay in the match. Overcoming the pressure, the French claimed the point and proceeded to deny the Italians a further four match points as they salvaged a 0-40 game to bring the score to 5-3.
Was this the comeback they had been waiting for? Unfortunately not for France. The Italians made no mistakes as they won their next service game to love to take the match and book a place in the final 61 63.
The mixed match saw Alessandro Calbucci and Simona Briganti for Italy take on Francois Jouque and Mathilde Hoarau of France. With the tie already decided it was national pride at stake for both teams.
There was little to separate the teams as the score reached 3-3 in the first set. A love service game for Italy calmed their nerves before they forced the French serve to deciding point deuce which they claimed for a chance to serve for the set. A chance they did not miss taking the set 63.
With momentum on their side, the Italians steamed ahead to a 5-2 lead in the second and it looked to be all over for the French. But with the help of a deciding point deuce, the French levelled the score at 5-5 and looked favourites to take the set.
Serving for the chance to take a 6-5 lead, the French fell short and found themselves returning serve at 5-6. Once again the Italians proved they were too strong as they sealed off the match 63 75.