Team captain Rainer Schüttler’s players win the play-off against Croatia in Rijeka 3-1.
Team newcomer Eva Lys from the Porsche Talent Team celebrates a dream Billie Jean King Cup debut when winning the opening match.
Jule Niemeier, the German No. 1, kicks off the second day with a win.
Anna-Lena Friedsam wins the decisive point for Germans.
The reshaped Porsche Team Germany has passed its first major test with flying colours and will now also be competing for the Billie Jean King Cup together with the top tennis nations next year. In the play-offs for a place in the World Group of the most important team competition in women’s tennis, national coach Rainer Schüttler’s team defeated the favourites Croatia 3-1 in Rijeka.
In the electric atmosphere in the Sportska Dvorana Zamet with brass band music and drumming, newcomer Eva Lys, Jule Niemeier and Anna-Lena Friedsam won the points for Porsche Team Germany on their Billie Jean King Cup singles debuts. The play-offs in Rijeka, where a place next year in the attractive World Group containing the world’s top nations was at stake, marked the first appearance of the reshaped team after Andrea Petkovic’s retirement and Angelique Kerber’s pregnancy.
“The girls were brilliant, I’m so unbelievably proud of the whole team,” said Rainer Schüttler. “We knew just how strong the Croatians were at home. Therefore, it was important to express our commitment for our players going into the difficult task. The way that they repaid it on the court was sensational and makes me very confident for the future.”
After the first day on the Croatian Adriatic coast, the score was level at one rubber each. Jule Niemeier therefore was under a lot of pressure in the first match of the day. The Porsche Team Germany No. 1 for the first time, it was vital that she, after losing her opening match against Petra Marcinko, kept the team on track to win the tie. And the Wimbledon quarterfinalist fulfilled all the expectations against Ana Konjuh. Visibly more confident and in better form than on day one, she won in two straight sets 6-2, 6-1. “I managed to concentrate fully on my own game,” she said. “It was the main reason why I was able to pull out my A-game.”
Instead of the originally planned Eva Lys, who put Porsche Team Germany in the lead on Friday with an easy win against the Croatian No. 1 Petra Martic, Rainer Schüttler selected Anna-Lena Friedsam for the fourth play-off rubber. “Our commitment for Eva on the first day is the same as for Anna-Lena,” he said when speaking about his decision. “Both are in good form and have practiced well, but we feel it’s the better tactical variation.” His thoughts were spot on. Anna-Lena Friedsam transferred the good form she enjoyed recently when reaching the final at the WTA-125 tournament in Midland, USA to the Centre Court in the Sportska Dvorana Zamet in Rijeka. She won 6-4, 6-1 against Petra Marcinko and duly clinched victory for Porsche Team Germany.
“I found out I would be playing on Saturday when eating dinner in the evening. I was naturally delighted and am now very proud that I played so well,” said Anna-Lena Friedsam. And Eva Lys was overjoyed after her successful Porsche Team Germany debut: “The match went really well. I wasn’t surprised because I know how well I can play. The team gave me a lot of energy and it was incredible winning the first point for Germany in my very first rubber in the Billie Jean King Cup. I’ve never experienced anything like it on court.”
After Porsche Team Germany had put themselves into an unassailable lead, the final doubles for which Laura Siegemund was nominated was not played.