TOKYO, JAPAN: Japan completed a 4-1 victory over Belgium in their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off on Sunday. Ayumi Morita gave the host nation an unassailable 3-0 lead with a 75 62 triumph over Tamaryn Hendler.
Morita's win at Ariake Colosseum assured Japan's return to the World Group for the first time since 2007. Hendler’s defeat means Belgium will play in World Group II next year.
Japan’s No. 1 began the contest with an ace and jumped to a 3-0 lead in the opening set after breaking Hendler's serve in the second game. Both players slammed away from the baseline with Morita getting the better of it until midway through the set.
With a 4-1 advantage, Morita began to struggle as Hendler's returns started to find their mark. The players exchanged breaks in the seventh and eighth games as Morita went up 5-3.
Hendler, Belgium's No. 1, then broke again to make it 5-4 and held serve to level at 5-5 after staving off one set point.
Morita dug in and took the next game on serve at love. She then closed out the set with a beautiful backhand winner down the line to break Hendler once more.
Being able to hang on and claim the first set energized Morita, who raced to a 3-0 lead again in the second set after breaking Hendler in the second game.
Morita was brimming with confidence as she pounded her backhand from deep behind the baseline for winners. Morita broke in the fourth and sixth games to go up 5-1.
Hendler finally broke Morita in the seventh game for 5-2, but Morita closed out the match in one hour 28 minutes on serve in the next game.
Morita held a significant advantage in winners (35-14) for the match. She also dominated on points won on her second serve, registering 52 per cent to Hendler's 32 per cent.
"I'm very relieved that I won," stated Morita. "This is one of the best victories in my career."
A key moment in the match came with Morita leading 6-5 in the first set, but trailing 30-40. She challenged a call on a shot by Hendler that could have made it 6-6, but the point was overturned and it went to deuce instead. Morita then broke to win the set.
"I was very confident that the ball was out," said Morita of the point in question. "All of my teammates thought that it was in. They all said it was a risky challenge."
Morita praised her young opponent after the victory.
"She is a big fighter and didn't give up," Morita said.
"I've had two good experiences in the last two days playing two singles matches for Belgium," Hendler said after the defeat. "It is an honour to play for my country. I fought as hard as I could."
Hendler, who lost in straight set to Kimiko Date-Krumm on Saturday, said that Morita and Date-Krumm presented similar challenges.
"They are both very aggressive players," Hendler noted. "This is a fast court, which I am not used to. They put so much pressure on you that it is hard to even call it an 'unforced error’. It was more like a forced mistake."
Alison van Uytvanck defeated Kurumi Nara 76 60 in the fourth rubber to give Belgium a consolation point. It was 18-year-old van Uytvanck's first Fed Cup victory. In the doubles, Date-Krumm and Rika Fujiwara defeated Ysaline Bonaventure and van Uytvanck 62 64.
Ayumi Morita (JPN) - 22/04/12