Dutch stun Russia in one of the biggest Fed Cup upsets ever
Tennis witnessed one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Fed Cup the past weekend as the Netherlands stunned four-time champions and last year’s runners-up Russia 3-1 at the Olympic Stadium in Moscow to book their berth in the World Group semi-finals.
The Dutch did not even have any singles player in the top 100 and their highest-ranked player was Kiki Bertens at 106. The Russian team, meanwhile, consisted of multiple Grand Slam champions and three players from the top 35 – World No. 6 Maria Sharapova, World No. 17 Svetlana Kuznetsova and World No. 31 Ekaterina Makarova. Sharapova was still recovering from a left arm injury and she was drafted only for doubles. Even without Sharapova, the hosts looked formidable enough.
Suffice to say that nobody foresaw the Russians to be 0-3 down to the far less accomplished Dutch side after the first three singles rubbers in this World Group first round tie. But that is exactly what happened as Bertens and her 141st ranked compatriot, Richel Hogenkamp teamed up to leave the mighty Russians tottering at 0-2 at the end of Day 1.
The Dutch had only returned to the World Group for the first time since 1998 but they didn't look like the underdogs when Bertens and Makarova took the court in the opening rubber. Before this tie, the Dutchwoman had won 11 singles matches and lost just one and she brought that confidence against the World No. 31, forcing the Russian into errors time and again.
The result was a 6-3, 6-4 triumph for Bertens.
Longest match in Fed Cup history
The next match was as dramatic as it could get. A titanic battle ensued as Svetlana Kuznetsova and Richel Hogenkamp fought tooth and nail with none giving the other an inch of space. After exactly four hours on the clock, it was the 23-year-old Hogenkamp who edged past her illustrious rival for a massive 7-6(4), 5-7, 10-8 victory. The match went on to become the longest ever Fed Cup rubber and gave Holland a surprising 2-0 lead.
Day 2 turned out to be an even bigger shock as the hosts couldn’t provide any resistance at all. Captain Anastasia Myskina picked the two-time Major champion Kuznetsova over the inexperienced 18-year-old Daria Kasatkina and the decision backfired.
Absolutely drained from her four-hour marathon which finished just a little over 12 hours earlier, the Russian could win just five games and succumbed to a 1-6, 4-6 defeat at the hands of Bertens.
The 3-0 unassailable lead over the Russians was an unbelievable result even for the Dutch women themselves, Bertens later on admitted. “I think this is unbelievable. I think that nobody thought that we could win this tie and perhaps we even didn’t. It’s just an unbelievable feeling,” said the 24-year-old.
The tie ultimately finished with the former four-time champions salvaging some pride with a win in the dead doubles rubber.
Dutch captain calls it the ‘Moscow Miracle’
Netherlands’ captain Paul Haarhuis himself was astonished by the events unfolding over the weekend and called the final result the ‘Moscow Miracle’.
“It is quite astonishing and I think it is the Moscow miracle. Now we are looking forward to the Dutch hurricane against France or Italy,” he said.
They will now travel to France for the semi-final clash in April. The other semi-final will see Switzerland playing host to the defending champions Czech Republic.
After their Moscow exploits, the Dutchwomen surely won’t be intimidated by any challenge and would be hoping to pull off another such miracle!