MARBELLA, SPAIN: Spain and Slovak Republic are finely poised at 1-1 after the first day of their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie at Puente Romano.
Slovak No. 1 Dominika Cibulkova gave the visitors an early lead with a dominant display in beating Lourdes Dominguez-Lino 63 60. Silvia Soler-Espinosa then caused an upset in the second match to draw Spain level, winning 76(5) 64 against Daniela Hantuchova.
Cibulkova puts Slovaks ahead
Cibulkova broke the Spaniard twice in the first set of the opening match, before cruising through the second to win in 1 hour 19 minutes.
World No. 104 Dominguez-Lino fought bravely against her higher ranked opponent, but Cibulkova showed her pedigree with a professional performance.
The 22-year-old Slovak broke serve in the very first game and again in the ninth to seal the first set and take control of the match.
Dominguez-Lino briefly threatened by earning break point in the eighth game of the first set, but world No. 17 Cibulkova held on before dominating a second set in which she broke her opponent three times.
The Slovak closed out the match with a fierce backhand after Dominguez-Lino had saved a match point.
“It was very challenging so I’m really happy because clay is the Spaniards’ favourite surface and I showed that I was really well prepared,” Cibulkova said.
“I served really well and saving the break point in the first set gave me the confidence that I needed.
“I was returning much better in the second set and I managed to dominate on the court,” she added.
“I was confident on my serve and she didn’t get to hurt me with her returns. If I can improve my first serve tomorrow I will be more satisfied.”
Dominguez-Lino was philosophical about the result but felt the break point in the first set had been the turning point.
“I had the opportunity but I couldn’t make the most of it,” the 31-year-old said. “I knew it was going to be hard. I will try to learn from my mistakes and improve tomorrow.”
Shock win for Soler-Espinosa
Soler-Espinosa sprung a big surprise in the day’s second match, seeing off world No. 20 Daniela Hantuchova in a hard fought match in 1 hour 59 minutes.
The 24-year-old Spaniard broke her Slovak opponent in the third game of the first set after a confident start.
Hantuchova hit back in the sixth game to put the set back on serve, but Soler-Espinosa held her nerve to secure the set on a tiebreak after her opponent netted a forehand.
Hantuchova looked to have found a way back into the match when she broke Soler-Espinosa’s serve in the third game of the second set, but the world No. 64 dug in to break back in the eighth game for 4-4, and then again to help seal a deserved win.
“It was a tough match because I think she is a really good player,” said Soler-Espinosa, who had never previously won a Fed Cup match.
“There was a lot of pressure on both of us in the first set but we played some good rallies and I managed to come through it, which gave me a lot of confidence. I knew I had to play aggressively but she made it difficult for me so I am happy to have won.”
Hantuchova said: “I thought my opponent played a great game, she is a very talented player and I have to accept that she played better than me. I had my chances but I didn’t take them and that is what happens when you don’t take your chances, you lose the match.”
The result means it’s all to play for in Sunday’s reverse matches, with Slovak Republic hoping to gain promotion to the World Group while Spain will look to avoid dropping into World Group II.
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Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (ESP) - 21/04/2012
Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) - 21/04/2012