LIDKOPING, SWEDEN: It took just two hours and six minutes for Sweden to firmly position themselves in the driving seat as they took a 2-0 lead over Thailand in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II play-off at the Lidkoping Arena.
This was pretty much the perfect day for the hosts. Johanna Larsson opened with a 61 63 victory over Noppawan Lertcheewakarn in 63 minutes, and it took the same amount of time for 30-year-old Sofia Arvidsson to mark her 50th Fed Cup tie with her 50th match victory as she beat Luksika Kumkhum 64 62.
Larsson will have the chance to ensure Sweden retains its place in World Group II when she takes on Kumkhum in the first match on Sunday. If the Thai can get her team on the board, Arvidsson will play Lertcheewakarn, while Hilda Melander and Rebecca Peterson are scheduled to face Tamarine Tanasugarn and Varatchaya Wongteanchai in the doubles, although it would be quite a surprise if it came down to a decisive rubber on the evidence of day one.
"It is a perfect day with two matches in two hours," said Sweden captain Lars-Anders Wahlgren. "Tomorrow is a new day, but of course I want to ride on this wave with the two wins of my Swedish girls and we are going to go to bed tonight with a lot of confidence for tomorrow."
"[Larsson vs Kumkhum] is going to be a very tough match. You never know, Kumkhum has beaten [Petra] Kvitova this year. She can play really good tennis. Her high level is really high. Today, Sofia served well and put her in a spot where she had to run a lot and put pressure on her. She didn’t feel 100 percent comfortable.”
Arvidsson was presented with a bouquet of flowers at the opening ceremony for her 50th tie and she could not have played a much better match to mark the occasion. Although she is currently ranked 40 places lower than Kumkhum at No. 146, her experience showed as she frustrated Kumkhum from the off, breaking in the third game and going on to seal the set with a forehand down the line.
Kumkhum found it difficult to hit through the rock solid defence of Arvidsson as the error count from her backhand steadily increased. The 20-year-old Thai was immediately broken at the start of the second set and although she had chances to break back, twice earning 0-40 on Arvidsson’s serve, the Swede crucially held on both occasions and comfortably served out the match.
"It’s always nice to win," said Arvidsson. "Johanna won her first match which put a lot of pressure on the Thai team in the second match. I am very happy with today’s performance."
Larsson’s match set the tone for the day as she broke Lertcheewakarn’s serve in the first game of the match, benefiting from a fortunate net cord on her second break point. The Swede simply had too much variety for the 2009 junior Wimbledon champion, which she used to exploit the limitations of the Thai’s game in which she plays two-handed off both sides, and broke twice more to wrap up the first set in just 28 minutes.
Lertcheewakarn struggled to find her rhythm, making a total of 37 unforced errors in the match, and she will rue the missed chances to halt Larsson’s momentum by failing to take four break points in the second set. Larsson went on to clinch victory on her third match point as Lertcheewakarn hit wide, before Larsson returned to the court minutes later to hit some more balls in preparation for her match against Kumkhum.
"Always when you play a match you tighten up a little bit," said Larsson as she explained her decision to immediately practise post-match. "Sometimes it’s nice just to get the arm loose again, feel the ball in the middle of the racket and there’s not any pressure that the ball has to go in. It’s more just to get a good feeling."
Thailand’s bid for promotion to World Group II now relies on victories in all three remaining matches, for which they must reduce their error count. "I have to say that the Sweden players played very good," said Thailand captain Priyakarn Salivorraroj. "Not so many errors, they are very focused and played very stable. Our team was maybe a little bit nervous and made a lot of errors."
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Sofia Arvidsson (SWE) - 19/04/2014
Captain Lars-Anders Wahlgren (SWE) - 19/04/2014
Captain Priyakarn Salivorraroj (THA) - 19/04/2014
Johanna Larsson (SWE) - 19/04/2014