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09 February 2014

Poland clinches thriller in Boras


MATCH REPORT

By Lee Goodall

Photo: Jorgen JarnbergerAlicja Rosolska and Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)

BORAS, SWEDEN: Even with the inclusion of world No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska in the Polish team, this always looked like a tight fixture.

And so it proved. After the four singles were shared between Sweden and the visitors it all boiled down to the doubles in Boras on Sunday afternoon. And it could even be argued that it was the presence of doubles specialist Alicja Rosolska that ultimately made all the difference, the Poles dominating the fifth rubber to seal a 3-2 victory and passage into the World Group play-offs in April for the first time in 21 years.

Radwanska led her team superbly, of course, picking up two singles and a doubles victory to help earn all three points. Six sets played for the 24-year-old and six sets won.

That stat says it all. But praise too should be heaped on Rosolska who after sitting on the bench all weekend had to find her best tennis in the most pressurised of situations. And that’s exactly what she did.

After Saturday’s singles were split, Radwanska was just a bit too solid and had a little more court craft that Johanna Larsson during a 64 61 victory over the world No. 85, a result that edged the Poles ahead 2-1.

Sofia Arvidsson then brought the hosts back into the tie with a ruthless display of power, the 29-year-old blowing youngster Katarzyna Piter away 62 61 in her 86th rubber for her country.

Cue the predictable team changes from both captains as Larsson and Arvidsson were nominated to take on Radwanska and doubles world No. 46 Rosolska to decide the tie. On paper, perhaps the Swedes were favourites since the Poles had never won together and hadn’t shared a doubles court since 2006.

Polish captain Tomasz Wiktorowski had clearly formulated the perfect gameplan however and his players stuck to the blueprint superbly. Radwanska was a rock from the back of the court and Rosolska was bursting with energy, character, clever touches and well-time moves and interceptions at the net.

It was one-way traffic and it wasn’t long before Radwanska and Rosolska were being tossed into the air in celebration by team-mates after racing to a 62 62 victory.

“It’s a great feeling and we’re going to open a bottle of Dom Perignon for sure!” said Wiktorowski after the victory had started to sink in. “We expected this kind of quality from Aga but Alicja played really good tennis today too. It’s a perfect team for me. Aga was so solid from the back and Alicja could dominate the net play. That was the key for me to win that match.

“We have the wind behind us right now. We have good results on the ATP and WTA tour but this is something different. We play with ‘Poland’ on the back and our national flag on the front and it’s big for us. For us it’s a new path and we want to follow this path for as long as possible. And I can only predict our team is going to be stronger.”

The star of the tie, Radwanska, was in complete agreement with her captain and rightly satisfied with a perfect weekend’s work. “I’ve been very happy with my tennis,” she admitted. “It was good I could beat Johanna in two sets and I was always ready to play doubles. We played a great match. Alicja was playing great tennis at the net and I was playing good from the back. We knew exactly what we needed to do to win that match. We stuck to the plan.”

For Swedish captain Lars-Anders Wahlgren, thoughts quickly turned towards his next task - making sure the Swedes retain their World Group II status by winning a play-off against a Zone Group 1 qualifying team in April. The Swede admitted he knows only too well the quality of the countries in the lower divisions and how hard it can be to gain promotion.

“The next match we have in April we want to win,” he said. “This is where we belong. We’ll be hoping for a home draw.”

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