After a thrilling weekend of tennis at the Parque Roca in Buenos Aires, Sweden returned home with the spoils. Trailing 2-0 after the first day, they recorded a stunning 3-2 victory over Argentina that puts them in April’s play-off for a place in the World Group in 2014.
On the other hand, having been so close to collect what could have been their first victory against Sweden, the South American team will now have to face the unwanted play-off to retain a spot in World Group II.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to win three matches in a row,” said Swedish captain Lars-Anders Wahlgren in the middle of a party full of champagne bubbles that took place in the Swedish players' area after the singles wins of Sofia Arvidsson and Johanna Larsson, a pair that also captured the decisive doubles match.
What was the secret for such a turnover? “We had a very good meeting on Saturday evening and in the morning after. I told the girls to have a dream, to imagine 5pm on Sunday and how it would feel to have won all three matches, so they could have some sort of a goal during the day,” explained Wahlgren.
“Things couldn’t have been worse on the first day and everything was perfect in the second day, so for me it was a very good experience,” added the captain, who was making his debut in that position.
“Right now we’re riding in this wave. We have the play-off in April and for sure it’s going to be a tough match again, but with this team, with this good feeling I think we have a pretty good chance against every team in the world,” rounded off a confident Wahlgren.
Sweden will face either USA, Australia, Japan or Serbia in the next stage.The chances of the team fall exclusively on what Arvidsson and Larsson can do. The last weekend showed both sides of the story. A stronger team on the other side of the net could spell serious trouble for the Swedish team.
“It’s not the end of the world”
Expectations were high in the Argentine camp after building a fantastic lead on Saturday thanks to Paula Ormaechea and Florencia Molinero scoring two great wins over Larsson and Arvidsson respectively. But on Sunday the tears of the Argentine girls flowed around the centre court of Parque Roca.
However, captain Bettina Fulco had words of hope and confidence for the team. “When we lost the tie I told the girls, ‘Come on, this is not the end of the world. We have another chance in April and you are a very good team.’ We have to believe in ourselves,” recalled Fulco.
Fulco also got a positive feeling off court. “It was a very good week, we had a lot of support from the Argentine tennis family. Gabriela Sabatini, for example, couldn’t show up, but was on the phone with me through all the week.
"We had a good week of practising, gathering with the team and at the end we weren’t lucky enough to win the tie. But I think we have a new chance in April to remain in World Group II. If we don’t, I know that we still have a tough team with tough competitors that just need to get a little better on the tour. I hope they can do it,” analysed Fulco.
In the play-off, Argentina could play against Belgium, France, Great Britain or Ukraine. None of them seem to be easy opponents. As Fulco says, with almost every player ranked outside the Top 200 (the only one beyond that mark is Ormaechea, No. 197), the South American's challenge is to improve their performances on the WTA Tour in order to make up a more reliable team in the future.