HYOGO, JAPAN: Behind strong play from Misaki Doi and Ayumi Morita, Japan moved out to a commanding 2-0 lead against Argentina in their Fed Cup by BNP Paris World Group II play-off tie on Saturday afternoon at the Bourbon Beans Dome.
Playing before a partisan crowd, and in intense heat, Japan struck the first blow with Doi's 60 60 demolition of Maria Irigoyen in the opening singles match. Morita encounted a bit more resistance in her 62 63 win over Mailen Auroux in the second contest, but still prevailed.
The pressure is clearly on Argentina, who are playing without top player Gisela Dulko, heading into Sunday's reverse singles, when Morita is scheduled to play Irigoyen before Doi battles Auroux.
Perfect start for Doi
Doi dominated Irigoyen from the start, breaking her in the opening game and never looking back. The Argentine was plagued by a high number of unforced errors in the loss.
Fresh off her trip to the third round after qualifying at Wimbledon, Doi was clearly the more confident of the left-handers. She pounded winners around the court, often hitting both her forehand and backhand with both feet off the ground, on the way to victory.
"This is my second experience in the Fed Cup," said Doi. "I lost in the Asia/Oceania event in Thailand against Uzbekistan (in February) because of a muscle cramp, so I really wanted to win today.
"I did my best to prepare. It was not easy playing against another left-hander, but I tried not to think about it too much. I just tried to play my match."
The closest Irigoyen came to breaking through was in the fifth game of the first set, when she had two break points but was unable to capitalise. Doi took the first set in 24 minutes, then completed the rout and finished off the match in a crisp 50 minutes.
The Yokohama native was especially impressive in the fifth game of the second set, when she served her only two aces.
The Japanese team came prepared for the conditions, with both Doi and Morita using ice packs around their necks during breaks in the action. It was 32 C at courtside when the opening match began.
"I was really nervous," admitted Irigoyen. "Doi was very calm with the home-court advantage. I just couldn't do anything today."
Morita puts Japan on brink
Morita cruised through the first set of her match, breaking Auroux in the first and fifth games. But in the second set, Auroux dug in and took a 3-2 lead.
The seventh game proved to be the pivotal one, as with the score knotted 3-3, Morita used her wicked two-handed backhand to finally break Auroux after she had saved four break points. The world No. 47 took the next game to love and went on to close out the match in 1 hour 17 minutes.
"I did feel some pressure after Doi's quick victory in the first match," Morita commented. "I just tried to settle down and play my game."
Auroux displayed good power, but both she and Irigoyen appeared uncomfortable on the hard surface.
"Morita was really fast and hit the ball well down the lines. It was very hard to play her," said Auroux. "I was disappointed that I lost, but I learned what I need to work on."
Japan captain Takeshi Murakami was pleased with the first day's results. "We played great tennis today," he said. "I know we had a more experienced team than them coming into the tie."
"The two matches were really tough for us today," Argentina captain Bettina Fulco noted. "I think our players were a bit nervous."
Play resumes in Kobe at 1pm (4am GMT) on Sunday with Japan needing one more point to secure promotion.
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Ayumi Morita (JPN) - 16/07/2011