02/07/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/07/2020 15:36
Serbia and Poland finished top of their pools in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Europa-Africa Group I in Luxembourg after contrasting wins over their respective rivals on Friday.
Poland enjoyed a comfortable 3-0 win over Turkey while Serbia edged Sweden 2-1 after clinching the decisive doubles in a dramatic tie which produced enthralling tennis at Luxembourg's Esch-sur-Alzette national tennis centre.
The results mean that Serbia will face Slovenia and Poland take on Sweden in Saturday's play-offs for the two promotion berths while Luxembourg meet Turkey in the battle to avoid relegation.
Serbia's team captain Tatjana Jecmenica elected their third-ranked player Aleksandra Krunic to face Mirjam Bjorklund in the day's opening singles and the gamble paid off as the 26-year old won the rollercoaster 6-2 3-6 6-3 to put the competition's 2012 runners-up in the driving seat.
Krunic failed to take any of her opening eight break points but she dominated the opening set after breaking the ice, having produced a flurry of forehand winners which cancelled out some unforced errors.
Bjorklund came storming back in the second set as she took a 5-0 lead before Krunic regained her composure, but the Swede unleashed a big serve to redress the balance.
Krunic applauded her rival's opening point in the third set, a delightful backhand winner down the line, but then pulled the red carpet from under Bjorklund's feet although the Swede looked the more likely winner when she broke serve in the third game.
The unrattled Krunic delivered her best shots under the most intense pressure as he won the next four games and although Bjorklund briefly kept alive her hopes of turning the tide, Krunic wrapped up the rip-roaring contest with some big serves at crunch time.
'It was a tough match but every match in the Fed Cup is,' Krunic told the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
'I was on the back foot in the second set and not aggressive enough. Anxiety creeps in when you are not doing things the way you should be doing.'
'Despite all the dips, I am delighted I managed to prevail because Mirjam is an awkward opponent. I should have taken some of the opening eight break points but sometimes it's out of your hands.'
'I managed to stay calm after she broke my serve early in the third set. I was able to focus under pressure and take my chances when they came my way. I was patient and disciplined and slowed her down, taking the sting out of her fast-paced shots.'
The Serbians must have expected world number 82 Nina Stojanovic, their top-ranked player, to give them an unassailable 2-0 lead but got a rude awakening as Sweden's Johanna Larsson, ranked 150 places below her opponent, raced to a 6-1 6-0 drubbing in 49 short minutes.
Larsson hit winners almost at will while Stojanovic, beaten in straight sets by Luxembourg's world number 254 Eleonora Molinaro on Thursday, could not do anything right in what turned out to be the event's most one-sided contest.
Like in Thursday's win over Luxembourg, Stojanovic looked a different player when she teamed up with Krunic for the doubles.
She volleyed confidently and produced some crucial baseline shots but it was the day's outstanding performer Krunic who dictated proceedings as the duo blew away Larsson and Cornelia Lister 6-2 6-1 to give Serbia the win.
Krunic dished out several delightful lobs over the towering Swedish pair, while her effervescent movement along the baseline made it virtually impossible for Larsson and Lister to find a breakthrough.
It was lights out for Sweden when Krunic sealed the contest with a delicious crosscourt backhand winner, prompting celebrations on the Serbian bench.
Serbia's team captain Tatjana Jecmenica made it clear she still had all the faith in the world in Stojanovic ahead of the crunch play-off with Slovenia.
'We came through two tough days and it's not going to get any easier against Slovenia on Saturday,' she told the ITF.
'I still believe in Nina because she is an outstanding player. This is the first time she has assumed the role of a pack leader as our top-ranked player and she is having a bit of a hard time dealing with the pressure.'
'Everybody takes a singles win from her for granted but that's not how the Fed Cup works because there is a bulk of good players here. I am inclined to stick with her for the Slovenia tie and I can only congratulate my players for coming through adversity today.'
Iga Swiatek blew away Berfu Cengiz 6-3 6-0 after breaking serve in the fourth game of the opening set and Magda Linette followed in her footsteps with a 6-0 6-3 rout of Pemra Ozgen to give Poland an insurmountable 2-0 lead against Turkey before Maja Chwalinska and Magdalena Frech put the icing on the cake with a 6-3 6-4 doubles win against Ayla Aksu and Ipek Oz.
Linette was confident Poland would move into the World Group II playoffs although she acknowledged the tie against Sweden would be no walk in the park.
'This is a tough tournament and we are very happy to have reached the event's playoffs,' she told the ITF.
'We played two really good singles matches but it's never es easy as the score shows.
'It was a good day for me as I served well. We have a strong team and we are confident that we can go through to the World Group II playoffs from this tournament.'
'We have two strong singles players and we can also be very dangerous in the doubles, so perhaps the time has come for us to move up a tier.'
The day's action was watched by ITF President David Haggerty, who arrived in Luxembourg after attending the opening two days of the Europe-Africa Group I tournament in Estonia's capital Tallinn.