MOSCOW, RUSSIA: Russia and Japan are level at one rubber apiece after the opening singles of their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas first round tie. Maria Kirilenko, who won her first ever singles match in this competition for her country, got Russia off to the perfect start with a hard-fought 76(3) 64 victory against Kimiko Date-Krumm, before Ayumi Morita comfortably beat Ekaterina Makarova for the loss of just four games, 62 62.
Things could have been so much better for the visitors who were the underdogs coming into the tie. Date-Krumm who is comfortably the oldest player on the women’s tour at 42 years of age, got off to a great start against the world No. 13, and had a chance for a double break in the seventh game of the first set, but Kirilenko managed to hold on and broke herself to force the set into a tiebreak, which the Russian took, as the world No. 77 sent a backhand long.
“I was leading 5-4 and then it went to a tiebreak”, Date-Krumm said. “It was a very close match, but I just felt that she was able to win the crucial points. It was very disappointing to lose the first set. She just knew how to play those key points.”
Kirilenko got off to a fantastic start in the second set, breaking her Japanese opponent twice to move into a 4-0 lead. However, Date-Krumm showed all her experience to win three games in a row and at 0-40 in the tenth game, the Japan No. 2 had a great chance to draw level. Kirilenko was showing some nerves, but she just about held on to win with her third match point as her opponent sent a crosscourt backhand wide.
“It’s a game and it doesn’t really matter what the score is so you need to fight to the end. There have been so many matches when players have been up 5-0 or 5-1 and have lost the match. I am just really happy to have finally won a match for my country,” said the 26-year-old Russian.
The pressure was certainly on Japan’s top-ranked player Morita to try and beat Makarova. The 22-year-old may be 37 places lower than the Russian in the world rankings, but she is vastly experienced when it comes to playing Fed Cup, with this weekend being her 31st overall appearance in the competition. Makarova, who admitted she was nervous after the match, was blown away in the first set in just under half an hour.
The second was a similar story, with Makarova being hindered by hitting too many unforced errors, while her opponent was hitting winners easily. Morita earned a crucial break in the fifth game and consolidated her advantage with a double break in the seventh, to ease to a very comfortable victory in just over an hour, with the Russian still looking for her first ever singles win in Fed Cup.
“I am really happy with the way I played today and I played really well from the beginning as Ekaterina is a tough player,” Morita said. “I didn’t have to play my best tennis today. I was always trying to be aggressive on the court as that is the way I play.”
View match statistics here: Live scores
Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) - 09/02/2013
Ayumi Morita (JPN) - 09/02/2013
Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN) - 09/02/2013
Maria Kirilenko (RUS) - 09/02/2013