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19 April 2014

All square in Barcelona on opening day


MATCH REPORT

By Clive White

Photo: Daniel MaurerAgnieszka Radwanska (POL)

BARCELONA, SPAIN: One set into the second rubber of this World Group play-off between Spain and Poland, the Pharrell Williams song 'Happy', which was played during every changeover, was beginning to grate not a little on the home crowd - it being far from happy.

Urszula Radwanska was then succeeding quite nicely thank you in the task of emulating her big sister, Agnieszka - who had predictably given Poland the lead in the opening rubber - by taking the first set against Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, a big, strong girl from Villena, near Alicante. In the absence of Carla Suarez-Navarro, the responsibility of leading the team had been placed upon the 21-year-old and she did not disappoint.

Somehow Torro-Flor, who was playing in only her third Fed Cup tie, managed to turn the match around with some very aggressive tennis to win emphatically in the end 46 60 61, bringing Conchita Martinez’s team level and giving them real hope that they might yet do the improbable and win this tie.

Urszula Radwanska could have no complaints. She had the opportunities to win this match or at least make more of a match of it but she was unable to grasp them. Incredibly - given the scoreline - she had more break points than the winner – 13 to 10, but could only take two of them whereas Torro-Flor registered an excellent 60 per cent conversion rate.

The key game was unquestionably the third game of the final set when Radwanska had five break points, thanks in part to two double faults from her opponent. Had she won that game the outcome might have been different, but there was no doubt that Torro-Flor had her tail up then and she was going to take some stopping.  

The Pole was typically gracious in defeat. "She was very good in the second and third sets and I couldn’t do very much," she said. "She was missing a lot in the first set – maybe she was nervous or something. Her forehand was really good today and she’s really dangerous on the clay courts."

Radwanska certainly put her finger on it with regards to the forehand. The young Spaniard, who practises at the Juan Carlos Ferrero academy, hit an incredible 34 winners with the stroke compared to her opponent’s six. Radwanska also noted that her backhand and movement had improved since she beat the Spaniard in two close sets in Tashkent a couple of years ago.

"It’s amazing [her forehand], the acceleration is remarkable," said Martinez. "If she works a little more in always being in good positions with her legs, her potential, I think, is big."

The opening rubber may have been generally more conclusive, but the 62 62 scoreline in favour of Agnieszka Radwanska was a shade harsh on the world No. 107 Silvia Soler-Espinosa, who from 0-3 down in the first set made a match of it. After all, it isn’t often that a player beaten so comfortably manages to force as many as 10 break points. But Radwanska’s all-round game was working well, particularly the drop shot which was near faultless.

"She tries to play you bad," explained Soler, who couldn’t help but laugh at her predicament. "Yeah, she tries everything to feel you bad. I think she’s only player on the Tour who fills you up with badness."

Nevertheless, Martinez believed that Torro-Flor’s aggressive game could give the world No. 3 problems and Spain’s captain is a big admirer of the Pole, who she said reminds her a lot of Martina Hingis in the astuteness of her game. "With that forehand [of Torro-Flor] you can give problems to everybody," she said. "The thing is Agnieszka is going to bring back the ball a lot more than Urszula did."

Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live

Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) - 19/04/2014

Captain Conchita Martinez (ESP) - 19/04/2014

Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) - 19/04/2014

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  • More photos

    • Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)Urszula Radwanska (POL)
    • Urszula Radwanska (POL)Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor (ESP)
    • Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor (ESP)Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor (ESP) and captain Conchita Martinez
    • Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor (ESP)Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP)
    • Agnieszka Radwanska (POL)Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP)
    • Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP)
     
 
  • WORLD GROUP PLAY-OFF

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    Olympic Stadium, Barcelona, Spain

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