BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA: After an epic pair of matches on Saturday, Argentina secured victory in their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas first round tie against Japan, in World Group II, with a much more straightfoward victory by Paula Ormaechea over Kurumi Nara, in straight sets 63 64.
That win, which took well under half the time of Maria Irigoyen's three-sets win over Nara the day before, gave Argentina an unassailable 3-0 lead in the tie, and even though Ormaechea and Irigoyen were comprehensively beaten in the doubles match, by Shuko Aoyama and Fed Cup debutante Risa Ozaki, the celebrations were long and loud in Pilará.
A Saturday night rainstorm of Biblical proportions had officials and players worried about what state the court would be in come Sunday morning, but in the end it was playable, albeit after a lot of work which necessitated a one-hour delay to the start of play. When the match did commence, Ormaechea wasted no time in taking control; clearly she was eager to decide the tie before the weather turned again.
After some early hold-ups with Ormaechea asking for the baselines to be swept for damp, and Nara also having some difficulty with them, the Argentina No. 1 broke Nara's serve in only the third game, showing real determination to come from 30-15 down and take the game 30-40; the two final points of the game coming thanks to fine winners which Nara could do nothing about.
Ormaechea broke again in the seventh game to take a 5-2 lead, and though Nara broke back to make it 5-3, the response was yet another break from the local favourite to take the first set 63 and put Argentina within a set of winning the tie. In the second, both players held until the sixth game, when Ormachea again took the initiative, breaking into a 4-2 lead which was stretched to 5-2 on her own serve.
Nara threatened to complicate matters and delay the inevitable with a hold of serve followed by a break, but Ormachea soon found herself on match point on the Japanese No. 1's serve, and when Nara's shot went long, Ormaechea fell to the floor and was mobbed by her team-mates. "Seeing that ball was flying and was going out... I was just thinking, 'how do I celebrate?'," she laughed afterwards. "Every time you can win a match for your country, it's an amazing feeling."
She should know; this was Ormaechea's eleventh Fed Cup singles rubber victory, out of eleven played. She finally got a taste of defeat in the Fed Cup shortly afterwards, as an experimental doubles pair of Ormaechea and María Irigoyen, whose win over Nara on Saturday morning had set Argentina on the path to victory, lost in straight sets to Aoyama and Ozaki, 60 64.
It was some consolation for Japan, who can be forgiven for hoping that whoever they're drawn against in the World Group II play-offs, it be anything but another clay court showdown, after their 2013 4-0 loss to Spain.
"[Florencia Molinero and Catalina Pella] were very supportive all the way," Ormaechea said afterwards. This time, we [her and Irigoyen] were the only ones who played, but I think it's always a different experience, you know? Sometimes you can play, sometimes you're just waiting and supporting the team – I think that was the case for them. For Catalina, it was the first time she was here; I think she he has to learn as well because, it's not easy to step up and play Fed Cup."
"For us it's amazing, with our rankings, it's strange to be [in the playoffs for World Group I], but in the Fed Cup strange things happen, so we will be ready, and we're going to enjoy it," said Irigoyen. Their captain, María José Gaidano, also spoke to us. "Really I felt relaxed, and just kept all my faith in Paula."
Yuko Kaneko, Japan's captain, lamented the result but insisted, "I don't think it was a one-sided match; the first two singles were really close, and it was a really tough match."
Speaking of what it was like to make her debut as a Fed Cup captain, she said, "I learned a lot, but obviously I have to take all these losses, and think about what I have to do." Japan, then, have to regroup, whilst Argentina wait to find out who they'll be attempting to spring their next surprise against. And the weather, thankfully, never became more than a minor sideshow.
Paula Ormaechea and Maria Irigoyen (ARG) - 09/02/2014