MINSK, BELARUS: Belarus will enter the second day of their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II play-off firmly in the driving seat against Estonia, after Victoria Azarenka and Olga Govortsova produced impressive performances to put the host nation 2-0 ahead.
Azarenka kicked the tie off in perfect fashion, extending her current match-winning streak to 12 with a comprehensive 62 60 victory over young Estonian Anett Kontaveit.
The newly-crowned world No. 5, playing in front of a home crowd in Belarus for the first time since she was a youngster, gave no quarter to 15-year-old Kontaveit, who was competing in only her second Fed Cup tie.
Gaining the double break to accelerate into a 4-0 lead, Azarenka suffered a brief speed bump in proceedings at the Minsk Sports Palace as Kontaveit fought back. Holding serve to get on the board at 4-1, the world No. 835 prompted a few gasps from the home crowd as she broke the Azarenka serve to narrow the deficit to 4-2. But the respite was brief, the home favourite taking charge of the situation, and serving out the first set 6-2 on her third set point.
Reaching full flight in the second set, the world No. 5 barely paused for breath, rattling through to take the match 62 60 in 45 minutes.
“I felt very good, to go out there,” said Azarenka. “I was a little bit nervous, to play at home, but good nervous, excited, and I showed pretty good tennis. I’m happy with the win, happy with the way we started the weekend. I’m very excited to be here, it’s a special place, all of my family and friends here, so it makes a difference.”
“I didn’t know her game at all, I [had] never seen her, I know how it is to come as a junior, you have nothing to lose, you can really raise your level, it’s tough because now all the juniors are fearless. She didn’t win today, but she can definitely learn some things.”
“I felt quite good,” said Kontaveit. “In the beginning it was hard, but when I broke her serve for the first time, I felt relieved, I was playing my tennis. Of course it’s a really, really good experience to get to play against these great players, and I hope it helps my tennis a lot, to improve it.”
With Estonia in desperate need of a win to prevent themselves marching one step closer to relegation, Margit Ruutel took to the court against Belarus No. 2 Olga Govortsova.
But Ruutel, the world No. 451, had little answer to Govortsova’s ruthless pace and power as the Belarusian continually caught her off balance. The crowd watched in almost stunned silence as Ruutel struggled to cause any damage with her serve, Govortsova breaking, once, twice, three times to take the first set 6-0 in less than 20 minutes.
The world No. 117 continued to put hardly a foot wrong, burying the ball deep into the Minsk hard court to start the second set in similar fashion. With Ruutel unable to keep the ball in play, the Belarusian soon led 4-0, wrapping up the win 60 60 after 35 minutes.
“For me, I really like to play at home,” said Govortsova, “and also Fed Cup is a little bit different, you play for your country, and I was trying to be focused from the beginning to the end and I’m glad I did it well.”
“This year I think we have a really good atmosphere in the team, we did really well in Israel, we still didn’t lose a set this year, so I think it is a good opportunity for us.”
Azarenka is due to face Ruutel, while Govortsova is nominated to take on Kontaveit in tomorrow’s reverse singles, followed by the final doubles rubber, although the two captains are able to make changes up to an hour before play.
Victoria Azarenka (BLR) - 16.04.11
Captain Andrei Luzgin (EST) - 16/04/11
Olga Govortsova (BLR) - 16/04/11
Anett Kontaveit (EST) - 16.04.11