LLEIDA, SPAIN: For the first time in the competition’s history, next year’s Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group will be sans France, after Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and Lourdes Dominguez Lino won both their reverse singles matches for Spain on Sunday. At the same time, the Spaniards are restored to the top flight after a two-year absence.
Spanish No. 1 Martinez Sanchez broke the 1-1 deadlock after day one with a 61 64 defeat of her French counterpart, Aravane Rezai. As she did against Virginie Razzano on Saturday, Martinez Sanchez got off to a flying start – and made sure that by the time her opponent got into the match, it was too late to alter the overriding trend.
Rezai, allowed just one game in the first set by her unsettling rival, actually made the better start in the second. Sometimes drawn to the net by her opponent, and sometimes coming in of her own volition, the Frenchwoman drew blood for 3-1 when Martinez Sanchez tried for too much on a drop volley.
But unfortunately for the visitors, Martinez Sanchez produced another drop shot return to break back in the next game, and issued one of five match aces to draw level. While Rezai fought off a break point in the next game to move ahead 4-3, the Spaniard held her own serve with ease; she broke Rezai again to give herself a chance to serve for the match, victory coming with a deep serve to the ad court on her second match point.
“I stuck to my game – drop shots, serve, hard on the backhand and a bit more slice on the forehand,” said Martinez Sanchez. “I played really well this weekend – I feel so good right now.”
Despite her loss, Rezai was philosophical. “It’s not easy to play against a player who always changes the rhythm the way she does,” said the 24-year-old, who played a clean match but couldn’t nullify the Spaniard’s greater height, reach and potent serve. “I can’t regret my loss because I fought and gave my maximum.”
The result left surprise substitute Pauline Parmentier in the unenviable position of defending France’s perfect World Group record. And the world No. 127 had to do it against a player who beat her 61 61 on clay earlier this year: Lourdes Dominguez Lino, currently ranked 47th.
This was, in many ways, the first classic clay court match of the weekend. But while 30-year-old Dominguez Lino won a WTA title on the red stuff at Bogota in February, Parmentier has been playing ITF events. In the end the difference in confidence levels showed.
The Frenchwoman retrieved an early break in the first set, but Dominguez Lino stole the advantage again for 4-3, and held on to her lead to take the opener.
The second set followed a similar pattern: Parmentier, playing catch-up, saved a match point when down 5-3. It was a temporary reprieve, though, as Dominguez Lino closed it out in the next game on her second match point, 64 64.
“It was an important match and I played well… I don’t know what to say!” said the diminutive 30-year-old, who hadn’t played a singles rubber since 2008. “I think the whole team has been in good form, so I knew there was a chance I would play today. We’re all very happy with the result.”
“I was in a really difficult [match], but I did my best and think I played a good match,” said a disappointed Parmentier. “It’s hard to fall from the World Group, but we have to keep our heads high and try to be good next year.”
The Spaniards made the final result 4-1 when Nuria Llagostera Vives and Anabel Medina Garrigues combined to beat Alize Cornet and Razzano in the dead doubles rubber, 64 61.
“In the end there are no good tactics or bad tactics by captains,” said Spain’s Miguel Margets, who surely came out on top of the weekend’s strategic war. “It’s down to the players and what they do on the court. We knew the French team would be strong, but after traveling to Estonia, Poland and Australia, we felt we had a good chance when playing at home. It’s great that we took it.”
Captain Nicolas Escude (FRA) - 17/04/11
Captain Miguel Margets Lobato (ESP) - 17/04/2011
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (ESP) - 17/04/2011
Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP) - 17/04/2011
Pauline Parmentier (FRA) - 17/04/2011
Aravane Rezai (FRA) - 17/04/11