MINSK, BELARUS: Belarus continued its domination of Fed Cup opponents in 2011, defeating Estonia 5-0 in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II play-off to advance to World Group II for the first time since 1999.
With both captains switching up their players for the crucial third rubber, it fell to Maret Ani to prevent Darya Kustova from sealing the win for Belarus. It was Ani who struck a crucial blow for Estonia when both sides met two years ago in Tallinn, defeating Olga Govortsova in straight sets, but the 29-year-old could not recreate that performance today.
Halting a run of four consecutive breaks in the opening set, it looked like Ani might be able to capitalise on the momentum of becoming the first to hold serve. But Kustova ramped up the pace of her shots, and Ani’s consistency deserted her. The Belarusian held for 3-3, and then reeled off three games on the trot to take the first set 63.
The second set was no better for the experienced Estonian, who despite rescuing an early break, then saw her serve disintegrate as Kustova raced into a 5-1 lead. Serving for a place in World Group II, the Belarusian made no mistake, hitting a backhand winner down-the-line to win the rubber 63 61 in one hour and 12 minutes.
It was Kustova’s 10th Fed Cup win in 12 appearances, and proof that Captain Sergey Terterin has a wealth of strength and depth in a relatively young Belarusian side.
“I’m happy about my game today, and I’m happy that I have a chance to play today and give a point to my team,” said Kustova. “Every point is important so I don’t feel that my point is more important than other, but I’m happy that I showed a good game.”
“It’s always great to play for your country and I give my 100% and I love to play Fed Cup. Now we’re in World Group II they’re going to be good matches, they’re going to be interesting, so I’m happy that we did this this year, that we passed the group, it’s a good result for us, and I think we can continue to play better, we have a good team now.”
“I didn’t really expect to play, and I wasn’t ready, I wasn’t 100 per cent for sure,” said Ani. “Darya was a top 100, top 200 player, so it’s very tough to play, in her house also. It was tough, but I did my best.”
“I played unbelievable there [in Tallinn], we had such a good feeling, Kaia played unbelievable, nobody expected it, so it’s sad a little bit for me, to watch yesterday and know that I played them before like this. But that’s the way, that’s life, at least today I tried to give a fight, tried to show a little bit of my tennis, and let’s go on with life.”
As a result, the host nation, which whitewashed Austria, Croatia, Greece and Poland to earn promotion from Europe/Africa Zone Group I in Eilat, Israel in February 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.
The dead rubbers saw Olga Govortsova beat Anett Kontaveit 60 62, and then the partnership of Kustova and Tatiana Poutchek recorded a 62 63 win over Ani and Kontaveit. In doing so, Belarus set a new Fed Cup record for the most decisive victory in a best-of-five rubbers tie, losing just 13 games during the weekend.
Captain Sergei Teterin (BLR) - 17/04/11
Darya Kustova (BLR) - 17/04/2011
Captain Andrei Luzgin (EST) - 17/04/11
Maret Ani (EST) - 17/04/2011