FED CUP DAY 2:
November 8 - 200: Germany d Australia 3-0
Blanka Lamade (GER) d Alicia Molik (AUS) 76 76
Barbara Rittner (GER) d Nicole Pratt (AUS) 46 63 75
Martina Mueller/Scarlett Werner (GER) d Rachel McQuillan/Nicole Pratt (AUS) 46 62 64
A spirited fightback from Barbara Rittner over Nicole Pratt in the Fed Cup Tie between Germany and the Optus Australian Fed Cup Team saw the European nation clinch an unassailable 2-0 lead today.
Australia's No.1 singles player, Nicole Pratt, began the match in a determined fashion and in her typical style chased down every ball her opponent hit.
In the first set, each player attempted to change up the play, attacking the net on one point then engaging in a long baseline rally the next. Play went with serve until the fifth game when a fiery Pratt claimed three break points. Rittner survived two before charging the net, but a high lob from Pratt followed by a lunging volley gave the Australian the break.
However Rittner refused to concede the first set, breaking back with a crosscourt forehand just out of the Australian's reach. The seventh game saw Pratt again break to take a 5-3 lead. After the German held in the next game, Pratt came out to serve for the set setting up three match points. But she would need only one to close out the set.
Pratt before her match against Rittner. Photo - Gary M. Prior/ALLSPORT
In the second set both players again struggled to hold serve, but Rittner prevailed with some solid groundstrokes, levelling the match 46 63.
After Pratt received a medical timeout for a blistered right foot, the Aussie dynamo powered ahead to a 4-1 lead in the deciding set and looked likely to capture Australia's first Fed Cup Final match but once again the German refused to surrender.
Rittner fought back convincingly to take a 5-4 lead and was to serve for the match but a calm under pressure Pratt rallied to level the set at 5-all. The Queenslander was unable to hold her serve in the next game and after a questionable linecall not in the Australian's favour, Germany went on to capture the match 46 63 75.
"When you're one rubber down, there is always more pressure on you to come out and win, particularly in this format when there is only three rubbers in a Tie," Pratt said afterwards.
"I fought hard today but full credit to the German team who never gave up and played extremely well."
Earlier, in a battle of the big serves, Alicia Molik narrowly lost to Germany's Bianka Lamade in straight sets 67(2) 57. The first set saw no breaks of serve until the tiebreaker, which the tall German dominated seven points to two. In the second set Molik earned a number of breakpoints and at one stage a set point, only to have Lamade pull herself out of trouble with a big serve time and time again.
In the doubles, Rachel McQuillan combined with Pratt to take on the young pair of Martina Muller and Scarlett Werner. Once again Australia started well securing the first set 64, but boosted with confidence from the performance of their singles counterparts, Germany fought back to claim the match 46 62 64.
Optus Australian Fed Cup Captain, Lesley Bowrey said, "The team played very well today, but Germany was just too good."
"We have done very well this year to make it to the Finals for the first time in eight years and we'll go into Fed Cup next year buoyed by our efforts. We also have the knowledge that we possess a solid team who have what it takes to match it with the other 15 nations in the World Group."
The other two nations in Australia's group, Belgium and Spain, had a bye today. Australia will play Belgium tomorrow while Spain takes on Germany. In Group A, Russia currently leads the table with two victories and France follows closely behind.