CHARLEROI, BELGIUM: After a chilly day in Charleroi, expect the heat to be turned up on Sunday as wins for Yanina Wickmayer and Jelena Jankovic left this Fed Cup by BNP Paribas first round tie level at 1-1.
The increase in heat, literally as well as metaphorically, would be welcomed by all the players, who had to cope with plummeting temperatures inside the Spiroudome.
With the mercury showing minus seven outside, it was only slightly warmer indoors. The overnight snow had reportedly affected the heating system, making for uncomfortable playing conditions.
Jankovic was visibly affected and, although she won through her match against Kirsten Flipkens 75 75, it was not a happy experience.
“The conditions were quite tough out there. It was really, really cold and the ball wasn’t bouncing much,” said Jankovic. “But I tried to stay focused and am happy that I was able to get a win.”
Fans were banging their plastic tubes together, as much to generate heat as to generate noise. Jankovic arrived in the post-match press conference, hands wrapped around a hot drink, but insists she should be okay for the reverse singles rubber against Wickmayer.
She joked to reporters in her press conference, suggesting that she may turn up on Sunday sporting a winter coat and a hat, adding: “Hopefully it will be a little warmer.”
There were moments in her match with Flipkens when one wondered whether she would last the distance. Increasingly in the second set, she gazed at her vociferous bench with a pained expression. It emerged afterwards that the cold was causing stiffness in her legs and making movement difficult.
Her opponent, Kirsten Flipkens, picked up on this and desperately tried to exploit the dip in intensity from the former world No. 1. But Flipkens – 163 places below Jankovic in the rankings – squandered a set point, leaving one to wonder whether Jankovic’s body would have held out in a decider.
Flipkens, though, was only able to convert two out of a possible 11 break points. She had her chances, but believes the performance will give her confidence going into Sunday’s match against Bojana Jovanovski.
And that should be some contest, with both players eager to prove their worth after opening day defeats. Jovanovski was beaten by Wickmayer in Saturday’s second singles rubber, losing in straight sets 64 64.
Wickmayer broke in game one of the match, and looked on course to cruise through the first set. Jovanovski – backed by a boisterous, bulging bench – broke back in game eight. Wickmayer instantly responded in game nine and served out for the set 64.
Jovanovski stayed true to the words expressed prior to the tie, when she warned that she would “fight, because I have a Serbian mentality.” The 20-year-old wrestled back the initiative with a break of serve in game four of the second set, and stormed into a 4-1 lead.
Wickmayer looked ruffled, and seemed just a little tense on her serve. But when Jovanovski double-faulted in game seven of the second set, it was back on serve and Wickmayer saw her chance.
The Belgian No. 1 held, and then broke again, to lead 54. Serving for the match, she raced into a 40-love lead, only for the stubborn Serb to fight back to deuce. More anxious moments for the home crowd before their girl gathered herself and sealed the point, winning 64 64, setting the scene for an intriguing series of matches on Sunday, when we genuinely hope the heat is on!
The back-drop to all this, of course, is that there is a semifinal place up for grabs, against either Russia or Spain. For Belgium it would mark the ideal start for new captain Ann Devries. For Serbia, though, victory on Sunday would bring them a first win in the top tier of Fed Cup.
Captain Ann Devries (BEL) - 04/02/3012
Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) - 04/02/2012
Jelena Jankovic (SRB) - 04/02/2012
Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) - 04/02/2012