We take a look back at the best moments of what was another fantastic year for Fed Cup by BNP Paribas – at No. 2 is the tense opening rubber in the final between Roberta Vinci and Alexandra Panova.
It’s fair to say that this year’s Fed Cup Final went according to plan inasmuch as the Italians won 4-0 in front of a vocal home crowd at the Tennis Club Cagliari.
It’s also true that the opening rubber of this year’s showpiece stunned everyone – not least Roberta Vinci – and proved that ranking truly doesn’t mean anything when it comes to coping with the pressures of team tennis.
Conceding a ranking deficit of 123 places, Alexandra Panova had seemed almost blasé when asked in her pre-match press conference whether she believed she could defeat Vinci in the opening rubber.
“I have to play my best I guess, just like every day,” said the Russian with a straight face. "I know I can do it and we’ll see.”
What followed as the players did battle on the clay court in Cagliari was the exact re-enactment of Panova’s summary of how she foresaw herself playing.
All except for one minor detail. Match point.
Panova, through a combination of brutal groundstrokes and errors from Vinci, raced into a 75 5-2 lead and much to the surprise of everyone in Sardinia she found herself with three match points.
It’s an oft used phrase that what separates the best players is not the level of skill or the ability to hit winners, it’s what is between the ears and nowhere was this more evident than in the Fed Cup Final.
With a total of four chances to clinch an unlikely win and give an unfancied Russian team a 1-0 lead, Panova simply could not close out victory and went on to lose 57 75 86 in three hours 13 minutes.
Vinci’s disbelief at winning the match was only equalled by Panova’s disappointment. Hopefully the Russian will take confidence rather than consolation from the result and come back fighting in 2014.