Before this weekend’s final between Czech Republic and Germany, and since it’s creation in 1963, there’s been 50 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Finals. And some finals of the world’s greatest women’s tennis event have been more memorable than others.
The most VIP
June 18th, 1977 on the grass court of Eastbourne, England: the American team wins against Australia thanks to the duo formed by Billie Jean King and Chris Evert. It’s the only time in the history of the Fed Cup that these two are both competing in the women’s singles. With an 11 years difference between these two immense champions, this occasion marks a transition between King, almost 34 at the time, and Evert, about to turn 23. « BJK » will go on to win the competition twice more in 1978 and 1979, however only playing in the doubles. The two American symbolise the incredible domination of the Stars and Stripes on the competition at the time. To this day, they remain the record-holders of the number of titles won at the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas : 8 for Evert (from 1977 to 1982 and from 1986 to 1989) and 7 for King (1963, 1966, 1967, 1976, 1979).
In 2005, the French team thought it held it’s revenge over Russia. The two teams faced each other in the final for the second time in a row. The first face-to-face, held in Moscow, had proven to be a tense fight, only to see Russia winning it by the closest margin, 3-2 thanks to Kuznetsova, Myskina and Zvonareva. One year later, « les Bleues », this time, get to choose the location and opt for the clay of the Philippe-Chatrier, at Roland-Garros. With the likes of Mary Pierce (US Open finalist a few weeks earlier) and Amélie Mauresmo, it’s with a dream team that France shows up on the big day. When the first one loses match number one against Elena Dementieva, the second one manages to hold a draw with a victory over Anastasia Myskina. On the next day, it’s the opposite. It’s then time for a decisive doubles match which Dementieva (3 victories in two days) and Safina finally defeating the pair formed by Pierce and Mauresmo. In five games between the two team, four have ended in three sets. France never quite got over it, and hasn’t played in a Fed Cup by BNP Paribas final since.
Sometimes, finals don’t always reach highs in terms of suspense. It’s been the case, for instance, in 2009 when the Italian team, which had already crushed it’s opponents in the previous rounds ( 5-0 against France, 4-1 against Russia, two-time defending champion), slapped the US team across the face. The final result: 4-0, with three singles over in two small sets. And yet... One of the games counting for nothing was finally canceled... On the clay of Reggio de Calabre, the local players Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone confirmed the predictions by largely dominating an American B team formed by Melanie Oudin, 18 years old at the time and Alexa Glatch, ranked 132th at the WTA race. What a shame the Williams’ sisters, who were facing each other in the Doha Masters’s final a week earlier (with a victory for Serena) weren’t called up for the epilogue of this Fed Cup by BNP Paribas. At least, this final will have symbolised the triumph of Italian’s women tennis, the most dominating in the last seasons (four victories and one lost final between 2006 and 2013).
The most surprising
Between 1994 and 1996, the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas saw a duel between Spain and the United States at every final, with two wins for the Spaniards in 94 and 95 against one trophy for « Team USA » in 96. So it’s to the surprise of many that France and the Netherlands met in the final in 1997...The Dutch, playing at home, hadn’t reached this stage of the competition since 1968 ( and a defeat 0-3 against Australia). As for the French, it was a first ! A happy first even, as they finally won 4-1. The « Grande Dame » of this final was Sandrine Testud, winning against Brenda Schultz-McCarthy and Miriam Oremans, the other two points being collected by Mary Pierce and the pair Tauziat / Fusai. A huge success as well for their captain Yannick Noah, already crowned in this role with the men, winning the BNP Paribas Davis Cup in 1991 and 1996.
The most beautiful
These rankings are always going to be subjective but it’s tempting to mention the 1998 final, with Spain battling to defeat Switzerland. For many reasons. First, it was an undecided draw, as it all came down to the decisive doubles to finally designate a winner. It’s also the last title of the Spanish team, their fifth in the history of the competition, all previously won in the nineties! In some aspects, it’s the masterpiece of a fantastic winning pair formed by Conchita Martinez and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the queens of clay, who could also handle hard courts, as it was the case on that weekend of September 1998 at the Palexpo Hall of Geneva. It’s also a good occasion to pay homage to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, who still holds the record for the number of Fed Cup matches played (one hundred exactly), and won, 72 in total, and 50 in singles. Finally, the unlucky finalists shouldn’t be forgotten: Martina Hingis and Patty Schnyder were very close to a historical achievement for Switzerland. Along with Roland-Garros, the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas is the only missing major title in Martina Hingis’ records.