By Yuri Kovalev
The new team tournament began last season, with the first play-off round to be complete by 2012. The teams are split into three divisions: Premier, Challenge and Standard. These are based on the results of the 2008 World and European championships.
The Belarusian men’s national team is in the strongest league while the women’s team is in the second. During the first round, teams in each division are divided into groups — with away and home matches played. Those coming first and second in their groups go through to a knock-out round, with semi-finals and final matches held in each team’s country. Four single matches are held in each round (with an extra match played where a draw occurs).
Last season, the Belarusian women’s team played two matches away. In the first, Belarus crushed England, 3:0; the next match ended in the defeat of Poland, 3:1. In March, our women’s team claimed victory over France, 3:2, and again defeated England at Minsk’s Palace of Tennis. Victoria Pavlovich won two matches while her sister Veronika was the winner in one; Yelena Dubkova lost her match.
“Four victories in four matches is a bright result,” noted the head coach of the Belarusian national team, Tatiana Petkevich, at the after-match press-conference. “Our next step after the play-offs is reaching the Premier Division. I believe in our team’s ability to see off any rival.” Meanwhile, the Belarusian men’s team played an away match against Germany within their Premier Division. Belarus was missing leader Vladimir Samsonov while the German host team was missing core players Timo Boll and Dmitry Ovcharov. After a tough struggle, Belarus lost 2:3. In the individual matches, Vitaly Nekhvedovich and Yevgeny Shchetinin won and, in the decisive match, duo Vitaly Nekhvedovich and Alexander Kuchuk lost to their German rivals. The leader of the group, Sweden, defeated Russia 3:2 at home, confidently keeping its top position in the tournament’s table (with four wins across four matches). Alas, Belarus lost all its matches.
Meanwhile, Serbian Subotica has been hosting the European Mixed Doubles Championships and the Serbian Open Championship. In the former, Victoria Pavlovich and Yevgeny Shchetinin claimed bronze, while Pavel Platov won the Serbian Open.