LUGANO, SWITZERLAND: Switzerland has taken a commanding lead in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie against Sweden. The hosts lead 2-0 in Lugano, thanks to a 76(2) 61 win by Timea Bacsinszky against Johanna Larsson, which was followed by a near perfect match from Patty Schnyder, who beat Sofia Arvidsson 61 60.
There had been a lot of drama in the previous four ties between the two teams and so it was nothing but logical that this encounter should also start in a thrilling way. Bacsinszky and Larsson traded breaks in the first five games, before the Swiss No. 2 was able to hold for the first time.
Bacsinszky showed a great variety of shots, especially plenty of extremely well-hidden drop shots, to help her become the frontrunner. Nevertheless, she had trouble closing out the set in her first match-up against the Swede, who had recently beaten Australian Open finalist Li Na in Miami.
At 5-3, the Swiss had no less than five set points but was unable to convert them, as well as two more set points in the next game. Larsson then took her only lead of the match, at 6-5, but "Timmy" came back in an impressive way. Cheered on by the red-and-white crowd and her fellow team members, she raced through the tiebreak, converted her eighth set point and then never looked back.
Bacsinszky took a quick 4-0 lead in the second set, where she conceded only six points, but then Larsson got a re-break, salvaging hope of a comeback and a 30th win for her nation.
But all this hope was almost immediately gone again as Bacsinszky won the remaining eight points to give Switzerland the lead. Symptomatic for the match were the last two points: Bacsinszky offered herself three match points with yet another drop shot, and then the Swede missed a rather desperate drop shot of her own to concede victory to the Swiss, who now has a 13-12 record in Fed Cup play.
"At 6-6, I told myself to play simple and from then on it went smoothly", Bacsinszky said after her first clay court match of the year, "and in the second set, I was much more relaxed."
Schnyder had lost both previous singles encounter in Fed Cup versus Arvidsson, and therefore entered the match with utmost respect and desire for revenge. This focus immediately paid off against the Swedish No. 2, who never seemed to believe in her chances.
Therefore Schnyder, who has given so much to the tennis of Switzerland, cruised through the match, varying at will, making her opponent run a lot and leaving no doubts about the outcome of the match. At the end, the left hander could celebrate her 49th Fed Cup win and was given the deserved ovation by the crowd.
Of course, she was very pleased with her performance: "I didn't expect such a world-class performance today, but sometimes it goes like that. I knew, that if I played like in practise, it would take her an unbelievable match to beat me and luckily, I was able to take this feeling into the match and nerves didn't show too much."
One more win for Schnyder on Sunday would not only mean a nice jubilee for the Swiss record holder, but also a probably fitting end to a great career on home soil. She will open up the action at 11am in the duel of the No. 1s against Larsson, before Bacsinszky and Arvidsson take to court.
The Swedes will to come back was already shown after the match, when Larsson took to the practise court again. Captain Maria Strandlund Tomsvik isn't discouraged yet: "My players are angry, disappointed and frustrated, but that will pass. I still feel we have a chance in all three matches and we definitely will fight."
Timea Bacsinszky (SUI) - 16/04/2011
Patty Schnyder (SUI) - 16/04/2011
Captain Maria Strandlund-Tomsvik (SWE) - 16/04/2011