There was to be heartbreak for the Polish team and their legion of fans in Bydgoszcz on Sunday, with Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer and Kirsten Flipkens winning both reverse singles in their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II tie. Evenly poised at 1-1 after day one, the Belgians’ stirring wins sent their country through to April’s World Group Play-offs, leaving the Poles to again fight relegation.
In particular, Belgian No. 1 Wickmayer’s win over her opposite number, Agnieszka Radwanska, had all the elements of a Fed Cup classic. But ironically what had shaped up as a blockbuster clash started out as something of damp squib, with Radwanska winning nine of the first ten games to build a commanding 3-0 lead in the second set.
To get that far the 20-year-old Pole not only made the most of her counterpunching and retrieving capabilities, she also beat Wickmayer at her own game with carefully chosen forays to the net. But when Radwanska sent a backhand lob long Wickmayer was back on track at 2-3, and the match started to acquire the intensity it had promised.
Wickmayer wins the ebb and flow
Even so, when the set arrived at a tiebreak it was Radwanska who again stole the initiative, two aces helping her surge to a 4-1 lead. A few points later a backhand volley gave the Pole three match points – but the competition was far from over.
Wickmayer came out swinging, saving the first two match points with winners, and Radwanska gave her the third with a netted forehand. At 6-6 even Wickmayer was surprised by Radwanska’s shaky second serve, her return barely making the net – and yet dropping over for a set point of her own. Radwanska missed a backhand, and suddenly they were at a set apiece.
The decider was fought tooth and nail as well, though Wickmayer seemed to have proceedings in hand at 4-2. However, as it had for Radwanska, the prospect of victory saw errors creep back into the Belgian’s repertoire, and the Pole reeled off three games to move ahead 5-4 – with another chance to serve for the match.
Once again, she couldn’t do it; Wickmayer got the break back, and duly held for 6-5. In the next game Radwanska saved three match points and even had a point to level once again, but her big-hitting opponent squashed the challenge to close it out, 16 76(6) 75 in just under three hours.
“I never gave up and I’m really proud of the way I came through,” said Wickmayer of the win – her first ever over a Top 10 player.
For her part, Radwanska, who held 34 break points but only converted eight, could only rue lost opportunities. “It was closer from the start than it looked, and then she started to serve unbelievably well, especially whenever she was down. I know we both played lots of good points… but it’s hard for me say anything but I lost the match.”
Flipkens Seals Belgian Victory
Despite this disappointment, the local side still had plenty of cause for optimism given the rousing display Marta Domachowska had produced against Wickmayer on Saturday. Added to that, Flipkens arrived on court under an injury cloud, having hurt herself at the end of her match against Radwanska.
But the Belgian was on fire from the start, keeping Domachowska off balance for a 5-0 lead. The Pole stopped the rot by winning three games in a row but Flipkens didn’t miss her second opportunity to serve for the opener, which was pocketed 63.
Nothing separated the two in the second set until Flipkens broke serve for 65. Aggressive play allowed Domachowska to force a tie-break, but in the end the Belgian’s commitment to her rare style of play produced the desired result, 63 76(6).
“After yesterday I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent but the physio did a great job, and after Yanina’s win I was really pumped up and aggressive in the beginning,” Flipkens said. “Then Marta started to get into the match and the second set was a real thriller, but we got the three points and that’s what matters.”
With Belgium ahead 3-1, Polish duo Klaudia Jans and Alicja Rosolska scored a morale boosting win in the dead doubles rubber over Sophie Oyen and An-Sophie Mestach, 63 36 61.