EILAT, ISRAEL: Poland continued to dominate their group as the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Group I event moved into its second day in Eilat on Thursday.
Sisters Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska and duo Paula Kania and Alicja Rosolska ensured victory for the team which looks almost certain to top Group C and play off for the right to advance to World Group II in April.
Agnieszka was never stretched in her 62 61 win over Cagla Buyukakcay, although younger sister, Urszula, had a more difficult encounter against Pemra Ozgen and had to raise her game before winning 62 46 62. Kania and Rosolska ensured a clean sweep by beating Basak Eryadin and Ipek Soylu 75 76(4).
Romania beat hosts Israel in their tie on the stadium court by winning the deciding doubles encounter and the two teams have one victory each, but Poland can secure top spot if they beat the Israelis on Friday, and regardless, Romania are most likely to finish in second place in the group, unless Israel create a huge upset by beating the Poles.
Julia Glushko again played confidently and registered a convincing 61 62 victory over Cristina Dinu, but Sorana Cristea, world ranked at 27, turned on the class to beat Shahar Peer 62 76(4), coming from 5-2 down in the second set to level the tie before Cristea and Raluca Olaru cruised to victory in the doubles 62 61.
In Group A, Croatia and Belarus both have unbeaten records and will clash in a deciding tie to earn the right to play off against Poland on Saturday and attempt to advance to World Group II.
The Belarussians edged past Austria, winning both singles rubbers in three sets but they forfeited the doubles. Croatia made easy work of Georgia with the loss of only six games in six sets played. Austria and Georgia will meet on Friday to attempt to avoid finishing bottom in the group.
In the early session, Bulgaria, Hungary and Great Britain, who did not play on Wednesday because of rain, got their campaigns off to perfect starts by each registering 3-0 wins.
Glorious sunshine replaced the dark skies of Wednesday and the Group B and D teams responded by treating spectators to some thrilling tennis.
Bulgaria ran away with a clean sweep against the Netherlands in Group D in what had appeared as if it would be their toughest tie but Dia Evtimova, playing in Bulgaria's No. 2 spot, held her concentration to overcome Richel Hogenkamp 46 64 64 in a close encounter. Tsvetana Pironkova had a much easier time of it against Arantxa Rus as she came through 62 61, dispelling earlier predictions of a much closer battle.
Elitsa Kostova and Isabella Shinikova then wrapped up the tie by beating Rus and Bibiane Schoofs 62 76(5).
Anne Kramer, the most capped Fed Cup player of all time with 68 appearances for Luxembourg, did not have a good start to her tournament, losing in both singles and doubles to her Slovenian opponents, going down in three tough sets 64 67(5) 63 to Andreja Klepac, and again, when teaming up with Claudine Shaul, she lost 75 61 to Klepac and Tajasa Srimpf. Schaul earlier got Luxembourg on the scoreboard with a 63 63 win over Srimpf.
In Group B, Greta Arn and Timea Babos registered important wins for Hungary as the two won their singles rubbers against Portugal. Arn had an easy time of it against Barbara Luz, winning 61 62 but contrastingly, Babos had a very tough baseline battle with Michelle Larcher de Brito, with the Hungarian eventually prevailing 36 75 75 in a rubber lasting almost two and a half hours.
Great Britain registered their clean sweep against Bosnia/Herzegovina, possibly the weakest team in Group B, but Portugal on Friday and Hungary on Saturday should prove to be far tougher opponents. Veteran Anne Keothavong beat Dea Herdzelas 64 62, Heather Watson, now the highest-ranked British woman at No. 41 in the world, overcame Anita Husaric 63 64.
"I was a little nervous going out today, but I'm pleased to get the first win under my belt," said Watson. "It wasn't easy, I was in and out of the match as it was the first match, but I'm more settled in now."
Laura Robson, who last year teamed up with Watson in the doubles with great success, played alongside rookie Johanna Konta and could not have had it easier as they crushed Jelena Simic and Jasmina Kajtazovic without losing a game, a first Fed Cup double bagel for Great Britain in 11 years.
Captain Judy Murray applauded Konta's performance. "It was great to be able to put her in on the first day and for her to get her first win," said Murray. "She played fantastically well today, it was a dream debut for her."
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Judy Murray (GBR) - 7/02/2013
Heather Watson (GBR) - 07/02/2013