BORAS, SWEDEN: It’s still anyone’s guess who will emerge victorious in Boras on Sunday evening after a finely-balanced opening day’s play between hosts Sweden and the visitors Poland, led by world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska this weekend.
The two teams left the Borashallen with the World Group II fixture all square after both No. 1s enjoyed comfortable victories on Saturday.
The top-ranked Swede Johanna Larsson led the home side superbly by outclassing the inexperienced Polish No. 2 Katarzyna Piter 61 62 in 62 minutes to give Lars-Anders Wahlgren’s side a 1-0 advantage. Late in the day Radwanska took five minutes longer to crush Sofia Arvidsson 61 61.
Radwanska and Larsson will do battle in the opening match on Sunday at 12noon local time, before Arvidsson goes up against Piter. And if there is still nothing to separate the two sides the doubles will decide it.
Larsson’s performance was exactly what you would expect from a player notching up her 61st Fed Cup rubber. From the very first ball the world No. 85 looked completely at home, breaking in the opening game and quickly building a 4-0 lead over a player ranked 25 places below her.
Larsson continued to dominate with her big forehand and powerful first serve and quickly closed out the opening set as Piter struggled to find a way through the Swede on the relatively slow indoor hard court.
Even when Piter started to make in-roads early in the second, Larsson was resolute under pressure. The 25-year-old Swede trailed 15-40 in the opening game of the second set and at 30-40 hit a superb kick second serve to force an error off return.
Piter, in contrast, soon cracked, throwing in a sloppy game on serve when trailing 2-3. A succession of wild groundstrokes handed Larsson the breakthrough and moments later she was punching the air in celebration.
“I felt really good on court and I wasn’t really worried before about my form,” Larsson said. “I played well in practice this week and also in the points I felt really good. I played pretty aggressive today and she was on the back foot a little at the start and I took advantage of that.”
It was the perfect start for the home side and the result put a slightly different complexion on the second rubber. Arvidsson was the underdog, had home advantage, crowd support and nothing to lose. But once Radwanska found her range in her first match since losing in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, it was one-way traffic.
Despite strapping on her right shoulder and on the back of her right thigh, the Pole never really had to move out of second gear. She raced through the opening set in 25 minutes, dropping just 13 points along the way, and despite a brief spell of Arvidsson resistance early in the second, never looked unduly troubled.
“I had to work hard because the court isn’t very fast but at key moments I think I was the better player,” Radwanska said. “Tomorrow against Larsson will be very different - she plays very different compared to Arvidsson. But if I play like I did today I’ll be very happy.”
Swedish captain Wahlgren admitted that with two players with singles rankings around the 100 mark, he was satisfied with Saturday night’s scoreline. “I was hoping for 2-0 - that was the dream - but still it’s a good result for us,” he said. “It’s fantastic that we have live rubbers tomorrow that matter. Johanna was impressive. She’s playing well but it’s not always easy to play well in front of a home crowd.
“Radwanska is playing against a completely different player tomorrow. Johanna hits with a lot of spin, higher balls than Sofia so it’s going to be a bit different for Radwanska. I think both my players can relax tomorrow.”
As for his opposite number, Tomasz Wiktorowski, the Polish captain will be hoping that Radwanska’s quality will make all the difference on day two. “Everything is still open, we’re in the game, it’s even,” he said. “It’s a blessing to have a player like Aga in the team. She can play singles to this level and doubles as well. I’m not trying to predict what will happen tomorrow, but I’m very happy with Aga.
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Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) - 08/02/2014
Captain Lars-Anders Wahlgren (SWE) - 08/02/2014
Captain Tomasz Wiktorowski (POL) - 08/02/2014
Johanna Larsson (SWE) - 08/02/2014