NOVI SAD, SERBIA: An enthralling opening day of Serbia’s Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II tie against Canada produced a pair of superb singles rubbers, which had some 2,000 fans in Novi Sad’s SPENS Arena on the edge of their seats from start to finish.
Rebecca Marino had to dig deep into her resources to grind out a 63 36 75 win over Aleksandra Krunic to give Canada a 1-0 lead before Serbia’s Bojana Jovanovski beat Aleksandra Wozniak 64 75 to redress the balance.
The battle of Fed Cup debutants turned out to be a rip-roaring contest in which 17-year old Krunic won the hearts of Serbia’s fans after coming close to staging a spectacular comeback against her bigger and stronger rival, ranked 197 places above her on the WTA Tour.
Having trailed 5-0 in the third set, Krunic drew level at 5-5 and had a break point in the next game before world No. 84 Marino held her serve and nerve in a nail-biting finale to give Canada the edge.
“I was too slow coming into the third set and when I went 5-0 down, I had nothing to lose so I let go and hit some big shots to claw my way back into the match,” said Krunic, who broke into tears on the court after the dramatic and heart-breaking defeat.
“Then, when I had a break point and a big chance to win, the pressure was back in and I didn’t take risks when I should have, expecting her to make a mistake. But she didn’t, while I can still take a lot of positives from this learning experience.”
Rattled by Krunic’s stinging baseline shots after taking the opening set at cruise control, Marino made 53 unforced errors and 10 double faults in an error-strewn performance, but also rifled in eight aces and had 28 winners as her advantage in size and strength eventually made the difference after two hours and three minutes of play.
“I certainly didn’t play my best tennis today but I am relieved to have won against a very talented and motivated player,” Marino said. “I didn’t serve well but it remains my best shot and today it got me out of trouble when I needed it most.”
Taking over the mantle as Serbia’s No. 1 player in the absence of Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic, 19-year old Jovanovski dealt with the pressure superbly to keep alive Serbia’s hopes of advancing into the World Group play-offs.
After trading two breaks apiece with Wozniak, world No. 54 Jovanovski broke serve in the ninth game and then held her own to take the opening set in 40 minutes.
Jovanovski fell 3-1 behind in the second but then stepped up a gear and having had the upper hand in exchanging punishing ground strokes with her rival, she broke straight back and gained the decisive advantage in the 11th game after coming out on top in several long rallies.
“I am very happy to have equalised and I hope the fans will turn up in ever greater number on Sunday to support us, because this tie looks set to go down to the wire,” Jovanovski said in an on-court interview after closing out the match in 1 hour 33 minutes.
In Sunday’s reverse singles, Jovanovski takes on Marino and Krunic is scheduled to play Wozniak before Serbian pair Tamara Curovic and Ana Jovanovic face Canadian duo Sharon Fichman and Marie-Eve Pelletier in the potentially decisive doubles.