MARBELLA, SPAIN: Slovak Republic made an immediate return to the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group with a 3-2 win over Spain.
The World Group play-off victory leaves the team well placed to challenge for a second title next year, after winning the competition in 2002.
Two dominant displays from world No. 17 Dominika Cibulkova and a hard fought victory for world No. 20 Daniela Hantuchova proved decisive for Matej Liptak’s charges.
An impressive performance from Spaniard Silvia Soler-Espinosa had stunned Hantuchova to pull Spain level on day one.
And the Spanish doubles pairing of Arantxa Parra-Santonja and Nuria Llagostera Vives sealed the fifth rubber to restore some pride at the end of a competitive weekend.
The result means Spain, under the guidance of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, will be forced to compete in World Group II in 2013.
The Fed Cup legend and four-time Grand Slam champion only took charge of the team for the first time in February following her appointment as captain.
And after losing a tough first round tie against Russia, the 40-year-old was faced with the daunting task of leading a team missing its three highest ranked players at Puente Romano in Marbella.
Spain have won the competition an impressive five times but the absence of Anabel Medina Garrigues, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and Carla Suarez Navarro was always going to make it difficult for them to overcome a team featuring two of the world’s Top 20 players.
Looking back at the weekend’s action, Slovak captain Matej Liptak said: “I am really proud of my team, we have very professional players who prepared well and played good matches.
“The victory was not easy but we expected a tough match because Spain are very strong, especially at home and on clay and I am really happy that we won.
“It was our goal to come back to the World Group and we beat strong countries in France and Spain to achieve it,” he added.
“We can look forward to a good future because we have a really strong team and some good young players so I hope we can stay in the top group because I think we have the team for it.”
Slovak No. 2 Hantuchova was forced to overcome an ankle injury to play in the tie, but despite the set-back on day one, she came through her second match against Lourdes Dominguez-Lino 06 76(4) 64.
“We knew we had to play well in the singles because they have a really strong doubles team so it is great to be able to close it out.
“It means so much to be back in the World Group, I came here 10 years ago and won the whole thing and leaving the country again with another win makes it very special and I think we are back where we belong.
“We have a great team and we expect great things so we’ll see what happens next year,” added Hantuchova, who turns 29 today (23 April).
“It was great to have so much support even though we were playing away. It makes it very special and we are always really proud to play in front of our fans for our country, we have a great spirit in the team and I think that is what makes us play so well.”
Sanchez Vicario admitted she was disappointed to lose the tie, but paid tribute to the performance of her players.
“I am very proud of the players and my team because they gave their best and fought until the end,” she said.
“We had our chances but when you don’t take them it is much more difficult and the Slovak girls played well and took their chances.
“We’ll try next year to get back to the World Group and I am confident we can do that because I have a lot of players who are playing well at the moment and I have a lot of confidence in them,” she added.
Captain Matej Liptak (SVK) - 22/04/2012