LIDKOPING, SWEDEN: On a weekend of milestones at the Sparbanken Lidkoping Arena, it seemed somewhat fitting that Johanna Larsson’s 40th Fed Cup match win sealed victory for Sweden as the hosts beat Thailand 4-0 in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II play-off.
After Sofia Arvidsson had put Sweden 2-0 ahead on day one with her 50th win in her 50th tie, 25-year-old Larsson took just one hour and 14 minutes to beat Luksika Kumkhum 64 62 and ensure that her country retains its place in the second tier for the third consecutive year.
Hilda Melander and Rebecca Peterson, taking to the court for her first Fed Cup match at the age of 18, then capped the perfect weekend for Sweden with a 64 62 win over 36-year-old Tamarine Tanasugarn, playing in her 53rd tie, and Varatchaya Wongteanchai in the dead doubles rubber.
“It is a dream as a captain to win two matches on the Saturday and go out [and win] on the Sunday when everyone is a little bit nervous and Thailand has nothing to lose,” said Sweden captain Lars-Anders Wahlgren. “We could feel a little bit of hesitation and nerves from Johanna and of course you never know with number one versus number one, but finally it turned out well.”
This was the second consecutive day that Larsson, ranked No. 88, faced an opponent who played two-handed off both sides. But just like teammate Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, world No.106 Kumkhum made too many errors off her groundstrokes in the opening set and struggled on serve, hitting a total of four double faults.
Larsson had a slight blip when she was broken as she served for it at 5-3 but Kumkhum faltered again in the next game from 30-0 up and two wayward forehands gifted the set to the Swede.
Kumkhum showed signs that she was beginning to settle in the second set until another forehand error saw Larsson break for 42 and she quickly wrapped up the match from there, breaking once more when Kumkhum put a forehand wide on Larsson’s third match point.
“In the second set I definitely think the level of tennis went up a little bit and I felt I had to play better to win,” said Larsson. “I’m obviously very happy that we won today and we secured a place in the World Group II. It’s amazing for the Swedish team.”
Thailand now returns to Asia/Oceania Zone Group I in 2015 for the ninth consecutive year. This may not have been the weekend the team was hoping for, but captain Priyakarn Salivorraroj feels her side has learned from the experience of playing its first World Group II play-off for eight years.
“I think we have a lot of experience [from] this time,” said Salivoraroj. “We have learned a lot and then we will come back to improve our team. I think we can be better and then maybe we can do it next time.”
Captain Priyakarn Salivorraroj (THA) - 20/04/2014
Captain Lars-Anders Wahlgren (SWE) - 20/04/2014
Johanna Larsson (SWE) - 20/04/2014