BARCELONA, SPAIN: The presence of world No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off between Spain and Poland in Barcelona is symbolic of the latter’s determination to reach the World Group proper for the first time in 20 years.
That was the general consensus of most people – including Spain’s captain Conchita Martinez.
The Spanish captain would love to have had her own No. 1 Carla Suarez Navarro present, too, in the Catalan capital, but on this occasion Suarez Navarro felt she couldn’t be distracted from her build-up to the French Open. As a result, Poland are big favourites - whatever their captain Tomasz Wiktorowski may like to think.
It’s a moot point, though, whether Suarez Navarro’s presence would have made a significant difference to the outcome of this match since the older of the Radwanska sisters leads her 3-0 in their head-to-heads while even kid sister Urszula has a 1-0 advantage, albeit from a meeting eight years ago.
“Obviously, the Polish team wants to go to the first division [the World Group] – that’s why Agnieszka’s here,” commented Martinez. "The commitment is remarkable – it’s great. And for us it would be great if we had our best team.”
It was only fitting that the name of Agnieszka Radwanska should have been first out of the silver bowl holding the names of the four singles players at Thursday’s draw which paired her with Spain’s world No. 109 Silvia Soler-Espinosa.
Immediately after the draw she was the recipient of her second Fed Cup Heart Award, an acknowledegment of the courage and commitment this immensely popular player has shown in this competition. She hasn’t missed a tie in the last two years.
Only just 25, she has played in 37 singles and doubles rubbers and only lost six matches. She contributed three points to Poland’s victory against Sweden in the Group Two tie in February. And as Soler was quick to point out, with a nervous laugh, she has never lost on clay in Fed Cup.
Whichever way one looks at it, this tie is fraught with difficulties for Spain. The second singles match between Urszula Radwanska and Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor is a rubber that they could win, but in the only meeting between the two, in Tashkent in 2012, the Pole came out on top in two close sets.
Playing at home on clay is usually a distinct advantage for Spain, but not on this occasion. Clay may not be the preferred surface of the Radwanska sisters – in fact it may surprise some people to learn that, in fact, grass is – but suffice to say that the last time Agnieszka set foot on the red stuff was in the quarterfinals of the French Open last year.
Furthermore, she is the 2006 junior French Open champion so her discomfort on it is minimal, but Spain are going to do their utmost to have temporarily sickened her of the brick dust by Sunday evening. Martinez said their aim was to wear her out in the singles so that she was vulnerable come the doubles, but it’s a tall order.
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) v Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
R2: Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor (ESP) v Urszula Radwanska (POL)
R3: Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor (ESP) v Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)
R4: Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) v Urszula Radwanska (POL)
R5: Estrella Cabeza-Candela/Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP) v Paula Kania/Alicja Rosolska (POL)
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