The end of the season is getting nearer and nearer, and flashing lights cover the thrilling endings of the Races to London and Singapore, destinations of the ATP and WTA Finals, respectively. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that, in November, both David Cup and Fed Cup finals are going to take place. On the one hand, Zagreb is ready to host the epic battle between Cilic’s Croatia and Del Potro’s Argentina, whereas Kvitova and the Czechs will try to defend their 2015 title against France.
Italy got used to waiting for the Fed Cup’s final in recent years. Due to the outstanding results of Francesca Schiavone, Roberta Vinci, Sara Errani and Flavia Pennetta, it conquered the title four times–in 2006, 2009, 2010, 2013. However, these four players did not always compete in the finals. Injuries, technical reasons, or maybe coach’s choices made it possible for Mara Santangelo to be part of the winning four in 2006, as well as for Karin Knapp in 2013. It was indeed Corrado Barazzutti, Italy’s Fed Cup coach since 2002, the steady presence making these decisions during those years.
Barazzutti has been able to create a team based not only on talent and ability to play tennis, but also on wonderful human relationships, with the women being close friends to each other in and out the tennis court. I’m pretty sure that every tennis fan remembers the 2013 final, when Alexandra Panova was battling Vinci in the first match. In the second set, the Russian eventually had two match points. From that moment on, all the Italian players got behind Vinci, trying to motivate her, following her at every changeover. And, guess what, the Italian ended up winning that match!
Barazzutti, who’s been coaching both Davis and Fed Cup teams since 2002, succeeded in the aim of making the best out of the Italian players. Indeed, he was following Francesca Schiavone in Paris in 2010, when she became the first Italian woman to win a Grand Slam tournament at Roland Garros.
However, the past few years weren’t satisfying at all. 2015 saw Italy losing to France in the first round of World Group I, with Errani and Vinci defeated in the deciding double, where they played their last match together before pairing again for the Olympics.
2016, actually, was even worse for Italy, which, after Pennetta’s retirement from tennis, was denied a masterclass player. In the World Group Play-Offs, Carla Suarez0Navarro and Garbine Muguruza raced past the Italians, who will start again in 2017 from World Group II.
As Sam Cooke sang in 1963, “A change is gonna come.” And yet, Barazzutti decided to give up on his coaching position after 14 brilliant years, replaced by Tathiana Garbin. Garbin is a former Italian tennis player. Though her results won’t make her unforgettable, she managed to win a WTA title in Budapest, and to climb the ranking until #22. Her last professional match took place at the 2011 Australian Open, where she lost 6-0 6-0 against Marion Bartoli. After calling it a career, she started her coaching life following former Italian, and current Swiss, Romina Oprandi.
Garbin hasn’t spoken that much to the Italian press yet. Clearly, she hasn’t denied how honored she felt to follow such a legen as Barazzutti, and that she is aware of her responsibility. It does seem that she prefers to show her abilities with good results, rather than words, which is remarkable.
However, it won’t be easy. Her first obstacle will be in February, against Slovakia. Garbin will have to build a competitive team, given Pennetta’s retirement, Vinci and Schiavone’s careers coming towards an end, and Camila Giorgi’s argument with the Italian federation.
Of course, it is really hard to say farewell to a coach such as Barazzutti. I do think that he played a crucial role in making Italian players achieving what they did in recent years. Following his footsteps has to be a hard job, though a change was necessary given poor results and gradual farewells of players. Let’s hope Garbin will be the right chance, and I hope to be writing about Italian achievements again soon.