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21 April 2013

Argentina stun Britain to avoid relegation


By Rex Gowar

Photo: Sergio LlameraPaula Ormaechea (ARG)

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: Maria Irigoyen made the slow clay court and home support pay to beat Elena Baltacha in three sets and give Argentina a 3-1 victory over Great Britain in their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II play-off at Parque Roca on Sunday.

Irigoyen, originally chosen only for the doubles, stood in for the off-form Florencia Molinero and beat Baltacha, also drafted in for the inexperienced Johanna Konta, 75 36 61.

Earlier, with the overnight score 1-1, Paula Ormaechea had won the crucial third point overcoming Laura Robson 64 46 62 in the clash of the rival teams’ number ones.

Irigoyen wore down Baltacha, who has come back from retirement, in a baseline battle lasting two hours and 34 minutes, making less unforced errors than her rival, who dug deep to pull off some good crosscourt winners but lacked consistency.

“They were tough defeats, we had lots of chances we didn’t manage to take,” Britain’s captain Judy Murray told the post-match news conference.

“This was as well as I’ve ever seen Paula play, your girls played very well today,” she told the Argentines.

“Bally (Baltacha) played so well in practice all week, and I felt if I needed someone to go out there and deal with the conditions, she’s got such a great Fed Cup record and is a great competitor, I knew she would give everything.

“It was a risk, she’d not played much competitive tennis in the last six months, she nearly did it and I’m very proud of her,” Murray said.

“It was tough for us that we were missing Heather Watson, who’s ill, it would have made a big difference to our team to have two girls in the top 40.

“But those are the breaks you get … we came up a bit short.”

Argentina’s captain Bettina Fulco said: “It would have been too difficult for us if Watson had come.”

She said among the factors in Argentina’s victory was the balance in her team with players capable of performing well in singles and doubles if asked and giving more than 100 per cent in the image of Martin Jaite’s Argentine Davis Cup team.

Ormaechea settled her match after two hours and 11 minutes with her fourth match point when the Argentine mishit and Robson attacked the net but put her passing shot wide.

In the first set, with both players especially erratic with their serves and a run of five successive breaks, the Argentine number one edged clear by holding in the eighth game and going on to take the lead.

Robson took the second set by coming back from 3-1 down as she settled into a rhythm of more accurate drives to the lines and forcing errors from her opponent.

Ormaechea, feeding off her passionate fans, surprised maybe even herself by racing into a 5-1 lead in the deciding set after breaking Robson in the third game.

Robson saved two match points at deuce on her service, one of which she had conceded with a double fault, and another when 40-30 down in the deciding game.

“It was very tough out there. I had chances but she stepped up her level and played well. Unfortunately I didn't play my best,” Robson said.

Ormaechea said: “I knew I had to move her about because when she has the ball at hand is when she’s toughest.

“She’s a very good player, I was much more constant (than usual), I fell away at times but they weren’t long troughs.”

Ormaechea said she let the second set escape her but that if she kept to her tactics she could win the match.

“At no moment was she on top, I knew I had it and it slipped away from me. I knew if I kept doing what I was doing I could win,” she said.

View Scores

Captain Judy Murray (GBR) - 21/04/2013

Captain Bettina Fulco (ARG) - 21/04/2013

Paula Ormaechea (ARG) - 21/04/2013

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    Parque Roca, Buenos Aires, Argentina

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