HELSINGBORG, SWEDEN: Ukraine defeated Sweden 3-2 at the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II tie in Helsingborg, and will now have a chance of promotion back to the elite eight teams in April’s play-offs. Sweden, meanwhile, face a fight to avoid an immediate return to Zone Group I.
The score was tied at 1-1 after the first day and the opening match on Sunday was between the No. 1 players for each team. Kateryna Bondarenko won the battle against Sofia Arvidsson 76(3) 64 in a match that had an incredible 13 breaks of serve.
After exchanging breaks to love at the end of the first set, Bondarenko raced into a commanding 5-0 lead in the ensuing tiebreak, eventually winning it 7-3. In the second set, Arvidsson decisively lost her serve for one final time at 4-4.
Maybe the tie was decided already there? Bondarenko proved to be too strong for everyone this weekend and was showing some of the class that brought her to the Top 30 in the world a couples of years back.
Together with Olga Savchuk, she also won the fifth rubber 75 62 and some of the quality that gave her a Grand Slam doubles title in 2008 could be seen in Idrottens Hus in the deciding match.
Savchuk was a good complement and the Ukrainian duo were playing a better, more orthodox doubles than the Swedish pairing of Arvidsson and Johanna Larsson. Bondarenko and Savchuk were way more comfortable at the net, for example.
Not even a fire alarm coming on at 5-1 in the second set – after the Swedes had already saved two match points – could save the home nation. Actually the whole arena was emptied and play was suspended for 15 minutes!
But even though Sweden broke Savchuk’s serve after returning to the court, Larsson was unable to hold in the next game and a double fault gave victory to the guests from Ukraine.
“The person who pushed the button could have done it a little bit earlier then it could have made a difference,” Arvidsson joked during the press conference.
Before the doubles Larsson had to fight hard to beat Lesia Tsurenko 67(3) 62 63 and keep Sweden in the tie. She has been fighting hard the whole weekend, but not really finding her rhythm.
“I think Kateryna Bondarenko made the difference during the weekend.,” said Swedish captain Maria Strandlund Tomsvik after the tie. “She shows that she is a class player and she is playing like she is a Top 30 player. She has been the best player in Helsingborg really.”
For the Ukrainian team the victory was tricky, particularly as Bondarenko felt that the surface was slower than she would have liked, although she enjoyed the atmosphere in the arena.
“It was not an easy singles today,” said the Ukranian. “It is always tough matches in Fed Cup and nervous when you feel you have to do it for your country.”
Perhaps Ukraine will have Kateryna Bondarenko’s big sister, Alona, back in the side for the World Group play-offs in April. That will make the team even stronger, but they can also believe in that Lesia Tsurenko will rise in the rankings and now has a platform to build on after making an encouraging Fed Cup debut.
Sweden, on the other hand, is still relaying on only two playe - Arvidsson and Larsson.