Their respective underdog opponents gave world No. 9 Agnieszka Radwanska and world No. 15 Yanina Wickmayer plenty to think about in the cavernous Hala Sportowo ‘Luczniczka’ on Saturday.
But the young stars registered the expected wins to leave Poland and Belgium tied at 1-1 in this Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II tie.
Belgium’s Wickmayer was first to take the court in Bydgoszcz, against Marta Domachowska, a player once ranked as high as No. 37 but currently languishing at No.135.
Indeed, you’d never have known it from the way she played today, but the 24-year-old’s only previous match this year had been a first round loss in qualifying at the Australian Open.
Early on, Domachowska’s stylish ground strokes enabled her to level-peg with the more powerful Belgian. As well as managing to make her opponent play one ball too many, Domachowska enjoyed considerable success by moving Wickmayer around, drawing errors on the stretch.
The Polish breakthrough came at 4-4 in the first set, when Wickmayer issued a forehand error down a second break point. Domachowska duly held her serve to seal the opener, sending the fans into frenzy.
The joy would be short-lived, however, as Wickmayer stole back the momentum for 2-0 in the second. Although Domachowska regrouped to hold serve and continued to press on Wickmayer’s delivery, she was unable to retrieve the break – and so the match went to the decider.
Again Wickmayer was first to draw blood for 2-1, but after the 20-year-old fended off two break points that would have seen Domachowska level at 3-3, the Polish resistance was all but over. The Warsaw native saved one match point with an ace but Wickmayer closed it out in a minute under two hours, 46 61 63.
“Marta really put a lot of pressure on me in the first set,” said Wickmayer. “In the second set I started to step into the court and played a lot more aggressively. The last few months I’ve become better at changing things after I lose the first set and that made a difference today.”
Flipkens fights but falls
The second match of the afternoon saw two crafty campaigners take to the court, with Radwanska barely breaking a sweat in the opening set against Kirsten Flipkens.
But after missing opportunities to continue her march by breaking the Belgian in the first game of the second set, the Pole found life much tougher.
Flipkens, who can hit her backhand as a slice or with two hands, mixed the play up to great effect, rushing the net at every opportunity while often keeping Radwanska pinned metres behind the baseline.
But as well as being one of the best counterpunchers in the business, Radwanska is herself increasingly confident at the net – as evidenced by her doubles semifinal run at the Australian Open last month.
As the set progressed it was the Pole who seemed the more frustrated of the two, but in any case she forced a tie-break – where drama struck.
At 2-2, Radwanska charged the net on a shot that took Flipkens wide to her forehand. Although she was able to make Radwanska play a lunging backhand volley, the Belgian fell to the ground in pain, grabbing at her knee.
A medical timeout ensued, after which Radwanska moved with ease to three match points. The first was lost with a lob that sailed long, the next two by cracking-back-to-back winners from the Belgian racket.
But then Radwanska did what she had to do, sending in a drop shot that Flipkens didn’t have a hope of reaching. The home darling had kept Poland in the hunt, 62 76(5).
“I thought there would be trouble if I didn’t get that last match point, so I had to do it,” Radwanska said. “I’m really happy to get the match over in two sets but I hope Kirsten is okay for tomorrow.”
“I feel fresh,” she added, “but I’ll have to be at 100 percent against Yanina.”
For her part, Flipkens, who was given a real fright by the incident, was unable to predict whether she’ll be able to play Domachowska.
“I thought it was my right knee and hips, I thought everything was broken – and my back was hurting as well,” the 24-year-old said. “I’ve had some treatment and will have more tomorrow… I’ll just have to listen to my body.”