MINSK, BELARUS: The first Fed Cup by BNP Paribas tie hosted by Belarus since 1999 could not have gone any better for the host nation, as captain Sergey Teterin’s team whitewashed a beleaguered Estonian side in Minsk to advance to World Group II for 2012.
The red and green team of Victoria Azarenka, Olga Govortsova, Darya Kustova and Tatiana Poutchek demonstrated the merits of strength and depth, trouncing a Kaia Kanepi-less Estonian team 5-0 in the most one-sided victory in a best-of-five Fed Cup tie in history.
“I am delighted,” said Teterin. “This delight comes from us winning, it just doubles for us winning at home, and triples from the marvellous matches that we had. It was a long way for us to go, to come up to the second World Group, and I hope we can continue to have very good play and go further.”
Azarenka, whose commitment to Fed Cup has been unwavering, arrived in Minsk on the back of winning consecutive titles in Miami and Marbella, and picked up where she left off, giving 15-year-old Anett Kontaveit a lesson she will not forget.
Coming through 62 60 against the youngster, the world No. 5’s presence in Minsk had fans flocking to the Palace of Sport to witness the national side confirming their ascent up the Fed Cup standings.
Leading 2-0 overnight, after Govortsova also gave Estonian No.1 Margit Ruutel a 60 60 thrashing she would rather forget, it fell to Darya Kustova to secure the crucial point for the home side.
She faced 29-year-old Maret Ani, who had defeated Govortsova in a thrilling Europe/Africa Zone Group I play-off between the two nations in Tallinn two years ago.
Sadly for the Estonians, who were without their injured No.1 Kanepi, Ani could not recreate the magic of Tallinn, her lack of match-fitness showing as Kustova bustled through 63 61.
Estonia, who lost to Spain in the World Group II first round at home in February, was unable to save face in the remaining two dead rubbers, Govortsova once again proving impenetrable to any assault mounted by the young Kontaveit. Storming through 60 62 against the junior world No. 30 in 61 minutes, the world No. 117 kept the home fans in cheery spirits.
It fell to Kustova and Poutchek to contest the final doubles rubber against Ani and Kontaveit, and, as was the form of the weekend, it went the way of the Belarusians, who won the first set 6-2 after just over half an hour.
The Estonian duo rallied in the second set, getting on the board at 3-1, and breaking the Poutchek serve at 5-2. But ultimately Belarus proved too solid, rounding off the weekend 62 63 without dropping a set, and conceding just 13 games.
As a result, the host nation, which also whitewashed Austria, Croatia, Greece and Poland in Israel in February to earn promotion from Europe/Africa Zone Group I for the first time since 2004, advances to World Group II for 2012.
Belarus’s last appearance in the tournament’s second-highest tier came in 1999, losing 1-4 to Czech Republic in the first round. It was the highest Belarus had advanced in Fed Cup since players of the former USSR began competing for Belarus in 1991.
And considering the performances produced by his star players in Minsk, captain Teterin will have every ambition of going one better and putting Belarus in contention for a World Group play-off next year.
Estonia meanwhile, after two years in World Group II, is relegated to Europe/Africa Zone Group I. But captain Andrey Lugzin believes that the experience this weekend will stand his young players in good stead as they battle again for promotion in 2012.
“These matches, especially for the younger player, it was warm-up for the next year. I hope she learn a lot here, she have potential, and I think she can do pretty well. The generation will change, we have eight years no players, now we’re in this position and we have to fight this. Every match is going to be good for everybody.”