Liechtenstein has been promoted to Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Europe/Africa Zone Group I for the first time next year, after storming to victory against Bosnia/Herzegovina in Siauliai.
Joining them in Group I in 2015 will be the Georgians, who edged past Finland to seal an immediate return to the higher level.
But there was bitter disappointment for Lithuania, who lost a tense tie with Egypt, while Montenegro’s miserable week ended, somewhat unsurprisingly, in relegation as South Africa recorded a comfortable win.
Liechtenstein's Kathinka von Deichmann and Stephanie Vogt, loyal Fed Cup footsoldiers who now have more than 50 Fed Cup appearances between them, will have the chance to pit their skills against many of the world’s top 100 in Group I in 2015. In many ways, they embody what the Fed Cup is about, making up for each other’s mistakes and putting in their most consistent performances when paired together in the doubles.
Today’s win is a second promotion in two years, and while Vogt and von Deichmann know that they face a much tougher challenge next year, they will undoubtedly be celebrating their nation's best-ever Fed Cup performance.
Von Deichmann was, as she has been all week, first on court on Saturday for Liechtenstein, and despite losing her two-day unbeaten record in yesterday’s opening singles rubber, the world No. 400 looked confident today as she came through in two tight sets against Dea Herdzelas.
The win gave Vogt the chance to seal the deal for Liechtenstein and, facing off against Jasmina Tinjic, she did not disappoint. It has not always been straightforward for Vogt, the highest-ranked player in Siauliai this week, but she found some high-quality tennis when it mattered most, winning 63 61 in five minutes short of an hour, and securing her nation’s progress.
By contrast, there was still a long way to go in the other promotional play-off over on court 2. At this stage, Finland’s Emma Laine had just put her nation 1-0 up against Georgia, mounting a remarkable comeback against Oksana Kalashnikova after losing the first set 61, and finally winning in a third set tiebreak in a match that lasted two hours and 27 minutes.
But Sofia Shapatava, unbeaten all week in both singles and doubles, levelled the tie, as she cruised to a 62 62 victory against Finnish No. 1 Piia Suomalainen.
And Shapatava secured her seventh triumph of the week, teaming up with Kalashnikova to win 64 61 in the decisive doubles rubber, ensuring her team’s efforts in Siauliai would be rewarded with a return to Zone Group I.
Meanwhile, the battle against the drop was well underway in the two relegation play-offs, as South Africa, Montenegro, Lithuania and Egypt fought to retain their status as Group II nations.
Montenegro will no doubt be glad to be leaving Siauliai, having lost every set in what has proved to be a challenge too far for its young team. South Africa consigned them to a fourth consecutive 3-0 whitewash, with wins for Natasha Fourouclas and Chanel Simmonds in the singles complemented by a victory for Fourouclas and Natalie Grandin in the dead doubles rubber.
The South Africans will have been disappointed not to have got more from this week, with two tight losses early in the week leaving them unable to challenge for promotion. They will certainly be looking to build on some of the good form that they showed this year, in the hope that 2015 will be more fruitful for them.
For hosts Lithuania, however, the week ended in misery, as the team was unable to build on its victory against Montenegro yesterday. Egypt emerged victorious in what was arguably the closest tie of the week, with Ola Abou Zekry and Mayar Sherif claiming a decisive doubles rubber to give Egypt a second season in Zone Group II.
Sandra Samir had bounced back after losing the first set to win her second singles rubber of the week, giving Egypt an early lead. But Lina Stanciute defeated Abou Zekry in straight sets to level the tie and leave the fates of the two nations in the hands of their doubles teams.
Over the course of one hour and 53 minutes, the Egyptians saved their best tennis for the crucial moments, edging two tight sets to record a 75 76(4) victory.
The result means that Egypt will enjoy two consecutive seasons at this level for the first time in over a decade. Lithuania’s own two-year-long stint in Zone Group II, however, has come to an end and the team must now return to the lowest rung of Fed Cup action.
A full summary of all of this week’s action from Lithuania is available here.