KOKSIJDE, BELGIUM: The Radwanska sisters were the heroes once again as their two singles wins clinched Poland’s return to World Group II for the first time since 2010 with a 4-1 victory over Belgium in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II play-off.
Agnieszka fought back from a set down to beat Kirsten Flipkens 46 61 62, giving younger sister Urszula the chance to clinch the tie for the visitors which she duly did, beating Alison Van Uytvanck 61 64 in just over an hour before being hoisted in the air by her teammates and coaches in celebration.
After the withdrawal of world No.35 Yanina Wickmayer prior to the tie, Poland were the clear favourites according to the world rankings but there was still a deep sense of relief for Polish captain Tomasz Wiktorowski that his side had managed to overcome a considerable fight from the hosts.
Wiktorowski said: “Of course the rankings are a useful tool to describe the quality of the players and on paper we were stronger. But we knew that both girls from Belgium were very good and Kirsten showed high quality tennis of the top ten. Every point was on the edge so we are really happy we passed through this match.”
The match between world No. 4 Agnieszka and Flipkens, ranked No. 22, was expected to be a tight affair, the pair having played a tight three-set match just a few weeks ago in Miami with the Pole coming out on top, and so it proved as the first game lasted 11 minutes in which Agnieszka saved two break points before holding.
Both were making full use of their gifted hands with a lot of variety which made for some entertaining exchanges. It was Flipkens, though, who took the first set, breaking for 54 after Agnieszka’s pick-up from a Flipkens volley was called out which the Pole was not too happy about before the Belgian served it out with a classic serve and volley play on her first set point.
Agnieszka put the frustrations behind her in the second set, a drop shot and lob combination earning her the break for 31 before racing through the next three games to level the match.
With Agnieszka and Flipkens having to hit close to the lines to break the other’s defence, there were a number of line calls which aggrieved both players. After Agnieszka broke for 32 in the decider, there were two consecutive calls which angered Flipkens so much that she threw a water bottle in disgust before a lengthy exchange with the umpire.
With Flipkens having lost her focus, Agnieszka pounced and took full advantage. Another break for 52 gave Agnieszka the chance to serve out the match and she clinched the win on her second match point as Flipkens put a volley wide.
Agnieszka said: “I think every game was so tight, a lot of running, a lot of tight rallies. When we play we always have long matches and long rallies so I knew I would have to be patient and wait for the good moment to attack and then put on some pressure.”
The sense of deflation amongst the crowd at the Tennisclub Koksijde after Flipkens’ loss told the story. Although Van Uytvanck had put up a decent effort against Agnieszka the previous day, it was a big ask of the 19-year-old to beat Urszula, ranked 151 places above her at No. 32, to keep Belgium in the tie.
Urszula raced through the first set in just 25 minutes as she worked her opponent all over the court. Although Van Uytvanck’s power off the ground is impressive, the teenager will have to work on her movement if she is to fulfil her potential.
A double break for 52 in the second set gave Urszula the chance to serve out the tie. There was a slight wobble as she was broken to love and Van Uytvanck pulled it back to 54 but the Pole made no mistake on her second attempt, claiming the win on her first match point as the Belgian hit long.
Urszula said: “I played really solid today. Alison is a tough opponent so I needed to play my best and I did. I had 5-2 in the second set and I just lost the concentration a little bit. But I came back and I think that was the most important thing.”
The defeat sees Belgium, who won the competition in 2001, drop to Euro/Africa Zone Group I for the first time since 1995 but captain Ann Devries was content with the efforts of her players against tough opposition.
Devries said: “I am proud because of the way my players performed. It was a really tough one but I saw some great tennis. Kirsten played two great matches and then we had to play Alison who did well in both matches but it was just not good enough to win against players of this level.”
In the dead doubles rubber, Katarzyna Piter and Alicja Rosolska inflicted more woe on the hosts as they beat Ysaline Bonaventure and An-Sophie Mestach 63 46 10-7 in one hour and 25 minutes.
Agnieszka Radwanksa (POL) - 21/04/13
Urszula Radwanska (POL) - 21/04/2013
Captain Tomasz Wiktorowski (POL) - 21/04/2013
Captain Ann Devries (BEL) - 21/04/2013