QUEBEC CITY, CANADA: Eugenie Bouchard has put Canada within touching distance of its maiden place in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group in Quebec City.
The world No. 18 defeated Slovak Republic's Kristina Kucova 76(0) 26 61 in two hours and eight minutes in the second rubber of their World Group play-off, after Aleksandra Wozniak completed a heroic three-set victory over Jana Cepelova in the opening singles rubber.
Cepelova served for the match at 5-3 in the second and third sets, only for Wozniak to come back and win 46 75 75 in two hours and 22 minutes, handing Bouchard a chance to give the hosts a 2-0 cushion going into the final day.
Bouchard, the world No. 18, duly delivered.
The youngster has had an impressive season to-date, reaching semifinals at both the Australian Open and Charleston, and she made no mistake in her 11th Fed Cup singles rubber.
Bouchard had to ride out a rocky second set, but hit back in the third for the loss of just one game.
"I think I didn't play that well and it was really more a battle," Bouchard said. "At the end of the day I'm proud that I was able to fight through it, but disappointed with my level, especially in the second, and it's something that I want to work on for (Sunday)."
Bouchard will face Cepelova on Sunday in the first of three opportunities for Canada to close out the tie.
"In my mind, it's another match," Bouchard said. "I'm not going to think about history or all the other things, I'm really just going to concentrate on what I have to do on the court because I can't allow myself to think about other things. The important thing is for me to focus on my game and what I have to do to beat my opponent."
The Canadians, who comfortably saw off Serbia in Montreal earlier this year, are looking to wade into unchartered territory with a place in the elite eight-nation World Group.
They took a big step towards that goal following Wozniak’s unlikely earlier triumph over a player ranked 105 places above her and Bouchard’s battling win.
"I'm very happy," Wozniak said. "I turned the match around and I fought for every point and never gave up. It was some kind of battle. My opponent was very tough and it wasn't easy to get into a rhythm against her. I was trying to do a bit too much and that's where I made errors, but then I adjusted. I needed to be more patient."
Cepelova admitted that her emotions got the best of her with opportunities to serve out the opening rubber against Wozniak in both the second and third sets.
"I think every point was important but in the second and third set, I had a 5-2 and 5-3 lead, and I served and this was a very tough situation for me," Cepelova said. "I think I would like to win so much, and that was a problem."
Kucova was proud of how she represented her country.
"I played the best I could play and Eugenie was really good today," Kucova said. "She was maybe a bit lucky in the first set on my set points but then we played a good match and the third set she showed that she's a really good player."
One thing for sure, Wozniak and Bouchard's opening day wins rule out a repeat of the scoreline in the last meeting between the two nations.
The Slovaks emerged 5-0 winners in their only previous clash with Canada in a World Group II play-off in 1997.
"We had a lot of chances to win sets, and the matches maybe too, so the difference is that we are losing 2-0 here now, but we still need to look forward and we need to be positive for (Sunday)," Slovak captain Matej Liptak. "It's still not over and we also were leading last year in Moscow, 2-0, and we lost, so we are still positive and maybe we can turn it around."
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Captain Matej Liptak (SVK) - 19/04/2014
Captain Sylvain Bruneau (CAN) - 19/04/2014
Jana Cepelova (SVK) - 19/04/2014
Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) - 19/04/2014