02/09/2018 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/09/2018 16:23
World No. 11 Johanna Konta was forced to fight extremely hard to earn Great Britain victory over home favourite and world No. 27 Anett Kontaveit in three tough sets on Friday to secure a playoff berth in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Europe Africa Zone Group I event.
Konta's 67(5) 64 62 win sealed the tie for Britain and they will meet Hungary for the right to play for a place in World Group II next season after Heather Watson earlier eased past 16-year-old Estonian Rookie Katriin Saar 61 61. The doubles pairing of Anna Smith and Katy Boulter then sealed the 3-0 victory when they beat Elena Malygina and Saara Orav 61 61.
The Latvian team, already assured of top spot in Pool D, completed a 3-0 tie win over Austria. They will and play Serbia, who topped pool A in which they beat Bulgaria and Georgia. The Georgians finished bottom despite pushing the Serbs hard on Friday.
Hungary emerged at the top of Pool C, which was the most closely contested of the four groupings in this year's event after they overcame Croatia by winning both singles rubbers and then were awarded a curtailed doubles win due to injury.
Georgia, who showed much grit in both their ties which ended in a losing effort, will meet Austria, the bottom team in Pool D, and Portugal will face Sweden, the bottom-placed teams in Pools B and C respectively. The two losers will be relegated to Zone Group II next season.
Konta and Kontaveit, who are both similar in their battling baseline style, were soon in their stride in the highlight clash of the day at the Tallink Tennis Centre, and the latter had most of the 1,400 capacity crowd of eager spectators displaying great support for their hero.
The two players exchanged numerous, lengthy baseline rallies which had the fans on the edge of their seats, and the applause and appreciation for Kontaveit's efforts was generous from the outset.
Konta elected to receive serve and the plan worked initially, as she broke Kontaveit in the first game. But she didn't bargain on her own serve letting her down too, and the early break was soon cancelled out and both players were level at 3-3 before two additional breaks and breaks back saw them settle the set in the tie break, where Kontaveit relied on her own daring, by going all out on her shots, while Konta looked less confident. The differences between the two were very slight, but the marginally more consistent Estonian edged the set by a whisker.
The second set saw both players hold their own until the eighth game, when Konta managed to break Kontaveit once more than she herself was broken, and that was enough to send the match to a decider.
Konta, by now in full flow, appeared more assured after breaking early and maintaining momentum to the end. The crowd sensed that it was not to be for the home team but gave a rousing reception to Kontaveit and her teammates, who were probably a quality player short of giving themselves a realistic chance of overcoming the Great Britain team. As well as Konta, the Brits have a consistently successful No. 2 player in Watson, and usually prepare a doubles team that can get the better of most of their opponents.
Latvia and Serbia, who with Great Britain advanced from the event last season, will battle it out in the early session, while the British, who are supported by a group of loyal fans who travel with them every year, and Hungary will play in the late session.