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By Chris Oddo

Sara Errani Roberta Vinci, Fed Cup (February 11, 2013) -- With three ATP events and Fed Cup in full swing, our lives were choc-full of fuzzy yellow goodness this week. It got pretty intense at times, downright confounding at others. Luckily, we survived, and... Without further ado, we bring you this week’s heroes and zeros:

Hero: Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci

Errani and Vinci proved their mettle against Liezel Huber and Varvara Lepchenko on Sunday, winning 6-2, 6-2 and clinching the tie in Rimini. The triumph catapulted Italy into the Fed Cup semifinals for the fifth consecutive year; it also expounded and expanded the notion that Errani and Vinci are beginning to look like one of the best doubles teams (18 doubles titles and three Slams each) in women’s tennis history.

Each took their lumps over the weekend on the singles court but when Errani and Vinci joined forces in doubles any lingering self-doubt they might have brought with them vanished like vapor.

Italy’s Fed Cup Captain might have said it best after the tie, when he nonchalantly mused “I don't really say much to them when they play, they're the best, what can you say?”

Corrado Barazzutti (Italy’s aforementioned Captain) makes sense: What can you say? If you are Italian, you can say Grazie mille.

Vinci’s record in Fed Cup doubles now stands at a remarkable 18-0, but even that ridiculously impressive statistic doesn’t say as much as the following snippet of high praise from Liezel Huber, a former World No. 1 and world-class doubles player herself, says: “They're like sisters and best friends, they can read each other's body language,” Huber said. “That's why they're No. 1, and I think they'll be that for many years to come.”

Zero: The Tournament Representatives on the ATP’s Board of Directors

Palm Springs, we [could] have a problem… A debate was sparked about the ATP’s veto of an across-the-board increase in prize money at Indian Wells this week, and the dialogue revealed potential financial discord between players, their representatives, and the tournaments that employ them. Unfortunately for the players, Larry Ellison’s desire to make Indian Wells the most prestigious non-Grand Slam event in tennis is in direct conflict with a major goal of many tournament directors across the sport: turning a profit.

It’s legitimate cause for concern when three men on the ATP’s Board of Directors have the ability to veto what would be millions of dollars in future prize money for players, many of whom are barely scraping by themselves. Vetoing Ellison’s generous offer to raise prize money might make sense to a lot of mom and pop tournaments, but if a wealthy business magnate wants to make it rain on tennis players, isn’t it better for the sport to let him? Reports are that nothing is written in stone yet -- the players might still get their raise -- but time is ticking. There is less than a month until Indian Wells begins.

Hero: Richard Gasquet

The Frenchman ripped through the Montpellier draw like a 3-year-old boy rips through a chocolate birthday cake. He’s 14-1 on the year, and he’s already taken two titles in 2013. Can he possibly keep this up?

Zero: Sam Stosur

Sam double-faulted five times in a game while serving for the first set against Lucie Safarova in her first rubber. Naturally, the Aussie went on to lose in a tough two-setter. That’s how it goes these days for Stosur. No matter how well she plays in big matches, there always seems to be a sense of impending doom surrounding her. The closer she gets to victory, the heavier her shoes become, until finally those Asics have transformed into cement and she can’t move at all. Such was the case Sunday: when Stosur had a match point against Petra Kvitova in her second rubber, it disappeared in a flash. Presto! Stosur lost the second-set tiebreaker and the first five games of the decider. She fought back valiantly to get to 5-4, but according to script, her valiant comeback attempt fell painfully short.

Hero: Marin Cilic

Cilic became the first player to ever win three titles at the PBZ Zagreb Open with a dominant 6-3, 6-1 thrashing of Jurgen Melzer. It was a high-octane performance from the 24-year-old, one that portends a fine season.

Zero: The Injury Bug

Fed Cup action was riddled with injury reports this weekend. From Marion Bartoli’s flu to Dominika Cibulkova’s death-grip leg cramps to Bojana Jovanovski’s painful lower back injury to Roberta Vinci’s cranky left thigh, the wires read more like a medical journal than a scoresheet. And I haven’t even mentioned Laura Robson’s shoulder, Maria Kirilenko’s cold, Ana Ivanovic’s shoulder, Sloane Stephen’s abdominal…

Hero: Horacio Zeballos

Okay, given Rafa’s fragile state and the fact that he’s still more interested in cleaning seven months of rust from his body than winning every single match he plays, Horacio Zeballos’s upset of Rafa Nadal in Vina del Mar isn’t all that surprising. But then again – CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?

Horacio Zeballos, a player with a sub-.500 career record on the ATP Tour, outlasting Rafael Nadal in a three-set, clay-court final? Strange circumstances, strange outcome. Nonetheless, a monumental victory for Zeballos, and one he deserves to cherish, and hopefully build on.

Zeballos notches his first career title with the win, and he becomes the first player ranked outside the top 50 to defeat Nadal on clay since 2004. He’s only the third man to defeat Nadal in a clay-court final in history, and more importantly: Nadal didn’t lose this match—Zeballos won it.

(Photo Credit: Fedcup.com)


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