Slovak Republic secured its place in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Play-offs after the team overcame China in three straight-set matches to give themselves a chance of promotion for the first time since 2004.
The Slovak girls barely broke sweat on the opening day but China put up slightly more resistance on Sunday as Dominika Cibulkova faced a spirited challenge from Shuai Zhang in the third rubber.
The Chinese No. 1 improved her first serve percentage from 64 per cent on Saturday to an impressive 95 per cent in the opening set against Cibulkova, and matched her opponent until the 10th game. There was little to choose between the two players, both had break points although neither could capitalise until Cibulkova attacked a rare second serve to take the first set 64 after 50 minutes.
“I want to see her percentage of first serves because all the time she was serving first serves, it was really tough for me to return, but in the end of the first set I found the key of how to return her serve and it was really important,” explained the Slovak No. 1, who ran away with the second set 61 in 28 minutes. Shuai Zhang was unable to maintain her high service percentage in the second set and never again looked like threatening her opponent.
“Today was a little but more tough, because I was expecting something a little bit easier after the match I saw yesterday, but I’m an experienced player so I know that every day is different and every match is different so today she was playing really well but I’m happy with my performance,” continued Cibulkova.
“I played better than yesterday and also my service was much better,” explained Shuai Zhang. “Dominika’s serve was not as good as Hantuchova yesterday so I can play much better especially on the baseline so I have some chances.”
Slovak captain Matej Liptak was pleased his team lived up to expectations this weekend and is confident ahead of the World Group Play-offs.
“We have a great team and I think we can beat anyone,” said Liptak. “Our goal is to be in World Group I but we want to be at home. I want France at home; I don’t want Serbia or Russia.”
Kristina Kucova suffered a defeat in the fourth dead singles against Xinyun Han 61 61. Kucova then teamed up with Cibulkova to face Jing-Jing Lu and Xinyun Han in the doubles. The Chinese pair claimed a second point after the Slovaks retired following a tendon injury to Cibulkova to leave the final score at 3-2.