Despite missing world number two Maria Sharapova and number four Svetlana Kuznetsova through injury, the Russians overcame a U.S. team led by Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, 3-2, to reach their third Fed Cup final in four years.
“America got their butts kicked,” a headline in Tuesday’s edition of a leading daily Kommersant blared in hailing the understrength team’s victory.
However, the tie at the picturesque mountain resort in Stowe, Vermont was overshadowed by a political row between Moscow and Washington when U.S. authorities failed to issue Russia captain Shamil Tarpishchev an entry visa on time.
Only after intensive lobbying by the International Tennis Federation and the Russian Foreign Ministry was Tarpishchev able to fly to the U.S. and arrived in Stowe just 24 hours before Saturday’s opening match.
Last Thursday, Tarpishchev said he was “forced to sit on the edge of his seat” for seven days waiting for his visa instead of preparing his team for the all-important tie.
Russian media took exception to Tarpishchev’s troubles by calling the Americans “inhospitable”.
“The ordeal in the ghost city,” wrote the mass-selling daily Sovietsky Sport, criticising the hosts for almost everything, from a lack of adequate facilities to bad food at the venue.
Russia’s leading players Anna Chakvetadze and Nadia Petrova also cited jetlag, fatigue and a lack of preparation as reasons for losing their singles matches to Williams. Guardian