Voting opens for 2012 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Heart Awards

London, March 01, 2012: The ITF today announced a shortlist of ten players to receive the first four Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Heart Awards of 2012. Awards will be presented in four categories based on performances in the Fed Cup World Group and World Group II first round ties, and the three Zone Group I events at the beginning of February.

Daniela Hantuchova (SVK), Christina McHale (USA), Samantha Stosur (AUS) and Roberta Vinci (ITA) have all been shortlisted for the World Group/World Group II award. Sofia Arvidsson (SWE) and Elena Baltacha (GBR) have been shortlisted for Europe/Africa; Catalina Castano (COL) and Florencia Molinero (ARG) for Americas; and Li Na (CHN) and Galina Voskoboeva (KAZ) for Asia/Oceania.

The shortlist has been compiled by the Heart Award judging panel consisting of ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti and a mixture of former players and members of the media. Sabine Appelmans, a former Fed Cup player and captain for Belgium, has joined the judging panel in 2012. Appelmans replaces Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario who stepped down as a panel member after becoming the new Spanish captain.

A public vote is being held on FedCup.com and FedCup.com/es to decide the winners, with voting running from 1-22 March. All four winners will receive a silver Baccarat bracelet and a cheque to be donated to their chosen charity. ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti said: “The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Heart Award is entering its fourth year and continues to recognise the outstanding contributions made by players to their country and the competition. The start of the 2012 Fed Cup season produced some excellent ties and all the shortlisted players were integral to their team’s success. I encourage all tennis fans to visit the Fed Cup website and vote for who they think should win.”

The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Heart Award is a joint initiative between the ITF and BNP Paribas. It aims to recognise players who have represented their country with distinction, shown exceptional courage on court and demonstrated outstanding commitment to their team. A total of five players will be recognised in 2012. To cast your vote, visit the Fed Cup website.

Player information:

World Group / World Group II

Daniela Hantuchova (SVK): Hantuchova has been a Fed Cup stalwart for Slovak Republic for over 10 years and showed she still has the desire to succeed as she extended her overall record in the competition to 31-15 with two singles wins during her team’s 3-2 victory over France in Bratislava. In a marathon match lasting over three hours on the opening day against Pauline Parmentier, she fought back from a set down to grind out a 57 61 97 win. With the Slovaks 2-1 ahead, the 28- year-old then came from an early break down against Alize Cornet to close out the tie 63 64.

Christina McHale (USA): With a huge fanfare to greet the return of Venus and Serena Williams to Fed Cup, American captain Mary Joe Fernandez showed how highly she regards McHale by selecting her over Venus for the opening singles rubber against Belarus in Worcester. With the weight of an expectant nation and a 0-3 Fed Cup record on her shoulders, the teenager dealt a crushing blow to the Belarusian team, beating Anastasia Yakimova 60 64. This was backed up on the second day with another comprehensive performance, dropping just a solitary game against Darya Kustova as USA clinched a 5-0 whitewash win.

Samantha Stosur (AUS): Stosur showed her class during a 4-1 away victory over Switzerland in Fribourg as Australia began their bid to return to the World Group at the first attempt. The 27-year-old had struggled for form at the start of the year, losing in the first round at the Australian Open, but the player who arrived at Fed Cup bore little resemblance as she raced through the opening rubber against Timea Bacsinszky 62 75. With the tie poised at 1-1, Stosur put in another dominant performance to record a 63 62 victory over Stefanie Voegele and put the Aussies in a winning position.

Roberta Vinci (ITA): One of the most underrated Fed Cup players, Vinci extended her unbeaten doubles record in the competition to 17 matches, taking sole possession of the record for most doubles wins without defeat. The victory in the fifth rubber against Ukraine, in Biella, was even more impressive given the circumstances. Sara Errani, her regular doubles partner, was injured during the previous match leaving Flavia Pennetta to step in with the tie level at 2-2. Vinci drew on all her experience to partner Pennetta to a 75 06 61 triumph over Olga Savchuk and Lesia Tsurenko.

Europe/Africa;

Sofia Arvidsson (SWE): Arvidsson had one of the weeks of her career as she remained undefeated in both singles and doubles to steer Sweden into the World Group II play-offs. She did not drop a set in singles, but it was in doubles where the Swedish No. 2 showed real character. In their final round-robin match against Hungary, she partnered Johanna Larsson to a 76(9) 26 64 win in the deciding doubles. This victory stood them in good stead in the promotion play-off against Poland, where they once again won a deciding doubles against Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska 64 63.

Elena Baltacha (GBR): Baltacha celebrated a decade of representing Great Britain in Fed Cup by leading the country to the World Group II play-offs for the first time since 1993. Playing as the team’s No. 1 player throughout the week, she posted a perfect 4-0 singles record without dropping a set. In three ties, the British No. 1 won the decisive point including the promotion play-off against a higher ranked opponent, Austrian Tamira Paszek. Baltacha also showed poise under pressure when defeating Michaella Krajicek 63 63 to spark a come-from-behind victory against Netherlands in the round-robin stage.

Americas

Catalina Castano (COL): Colombian veteran Castano has represented her country for over 15 years and has now played in 44 ties. Competing in eight rubbers throughout the week, the 32-year-old notched six victories as Colombia missed out narrowly on promotion. Her most impressive wins were decisive doubles victories with different partners against Paraguay and Brazil to help the team reach the promotion play-off, which they lost to Argentina.

Florencia Molinero (ARG): Molinero recorded a perfect 4-0 singles record in her matches for Argentina during the weeklong event, including a win over Top 100 player Stephanie Dubois 62 62. In the play-off tie against Colombia with a place in the World Group II play-offs up for grabs, Molinero lost the first set against Mariana Duque-Marino but bounced back to win 36 62 61, extending her unbeaten Fed Cup singles record to 8-0.

Asia/Oceania

Li Na (CHN): Li made an immediate impact on her return to Fed Cup by winning all three of her matches as China came through Asia/Oceania Zone Group I. Kei-Chen Chang and Nigina Abduraimova offered little resistance to the 2011 Roland Garros champion in the round-robin stages as China bulldozed their way to the play-off against Kazakhstan. Galina Voskoboeva proved a tougher nut to crack but the 30-year-old rose to the challenge in a 61 36 61 triumph, sealing the tie and with it a spot in the World Group II play-offs.

Galina Voskoboeva (KAZ): Voskoboeva fought every step of the way as Kazakhstan just missed out on a place in the World Group II play-offs. In the round-robin stage, Kazakhstan’s longest-serving active player won two singles and two doubles rubbers without dropping a set in wins over Korea, Indonesia and Thailand. Her fighting spirit was again in evidence against China’s Li Na in the promotion play-off when trying to keep Kazakh hopes alive. She managed to level the match – the only set the Chinese star dropped all week – before eventually losing 61 36 61.

Value of cheques:

$10,000 World Group semifinals winner (x1)

$6,000 World Group / World Group II first round winner (x1)

$1,000 Zone Group I winners (x3)

Judging panel:

Francesco Ricci Bitti (ITA), ITF President, Sabine Appelmans (BEL), former Fed Cup player/captain, Mercedes Paz (ARG), former Fed Cup player, Craig Gabriel (AUS), international journalist, Sandra Harwitt (USA), international journalist, Corinne Dubreuil (FRA), international photographer, Ray Giubilo (ITA), international photographer.

2011 winners: Petra Kvitova (CZE) World Group semifinals, Andrea Petkovic (GER) World Group / World Group II play-offs, Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) World Group / World Group II first round, Bianca Botto (PER) Americas Zone Group I, Ayumi Morita (JPN), Asia/Oceania Zone Group I, Victoria Azarenka (BLR) Europe/Africa Zone Group I.

2010 winners: Francesca Schiavone (ITA) World Group semifinals, Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) World Group / World Group II play-offs Jelena Jankovic (SRB) World Group / World Group II first round, Maria-Fernanda Alves (BRA) Americas Zone Group I, Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN) Asia/Oceania Zone Group I, Katarina Srebotnik (SLO) Europe/Africa Zone Group I

2009 winner: Melanie Oudin (USA) 2009 season (presented at the Final)

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