Slovakia's women's tennis team among best sixteen

Daniela Hantuchova, photo: CTK

Slovakia managed to beat Thailand 5-0 in the Fed Cup World Group playoffs - the premier team competition in women's tennis. That result means Slovakia is now among the best 16 teams in the world. Anca Dragu reports on Slovakia's tennis vistory:

Daniela Hantuchova, photo: CTK
Slovakia won the Fed Cup in 2002. Afterwards the team became embroiled in internal money-related conflicts that made a few players, such as world class Daniela Hantuchova, stop playing in the Fed Cup. Last year the team got a new coach, Mojmir Mihal, who managed to give players a sense of discipline and persuaded Hantuchova, currently number 17 in the world, to come back and play in front of a home crowd for the first time in four years.

"It has been an amazing feeling to play at home in front of your own crowd, to sleep in your own bed, to spend time with family and friends. If I had such atmosphere at every match than I could keep on playing tennis at very high level for another 20 years. I was thinking how lucky are those players who have Grand Slam tournaments in their own country because they can count on the support of their fellow citizens. I hope Slovakia will play more matches at home so I can come and show my best form in front of my own crowd, said Hantuchova after winning the match that brought a third, decisive point to Slovakia in the tie against Thailand."

Besides the world class Hantuchova the team is made of Janette Husarova, once ranked number 31 in the world, and an experienced doubles player, Dominika Cibulkova, who is still a junior but with is very promising, and this year's Wimbledon finalist in the girls' competition Magdalena Rybarikova.

"I lost my concentration a bit in that final at Wimbledon. Anyway, to be the runner up in a Grand Slam final means a lot, so I take it as a big achievement. It ended my junior career. I hope I will have the same type of success in women's tournaments too. My goal is to finish this year in the world top 150. And of course I am glad I won some points for the Fed Cup team, said the 18 year-old Rybarikova."

The new coach Mojmir Mihal was satisfied with his team performance. Each player won her match, be it in singles or doubles.

"When I accepted the job of leading this team I made it very clear that I want to make it very competitive. I wanted to create a positive atmosphere and I think I've succeeded in doing just that. I am not going to run after players and tell them "please, please come to the team" and I am not going to bargain any sum of money to lure them because I think it is the duty of every athlete to represent her country, said Mojmir Mihal."

Magdalena Rybarikova and Daniela Hantuchova, photo: CTK
The coach was very glad that Daniela Hantuchova returned to the team. But for how long?

"I think I have already shown my position on this issue so far this year when I have already played a few ties. I am willing to represent my country but I am a professional tennis player - therefore I have to take into account my other obligations too. I want to play for Slovakia but it depends on the time and type of surface of the next ties in the Fed Cup, said Hantuchova who together with Dominik Hrbaty won the Hopman Cup on behalf of Slovakia last year."

Slovakia will play their next match in April next year. Their opponent will be known when the draw takes place in September. Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany and Australia are all among the candidates.