Estonia duly made history by reaching their first Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Play-off in Tallinn and, appropriately, their best known player, Kaia Kanepi, was the one who led them to it.
It took her just 51 minutes to beat Argentina’s Aranza Salut 61 61 in the first of the reverse singles to clinch Estonia’s place in Wednesday’s draw and they finished emphatic 4-1 winners, having won all their singles rubbers.
Kanepi was nursing a hip injury but one would never have guessed it. If only all Fed Cup matches were so easy. The next one, in April, almost certainly won’t be for Rene Busch’s team, but if they can secure another home tie they will not disgrace themselves.
Proud moment for Busch
It was obviously a proud moment for the Estonian captain, even if they were expected to win. “But the biggest moment was getting into the top 16 and somehow I have got used to this feeling now,” he said. “This match only showed that this is our level today – but we aim to go higher. My dream is to play in front of a huge home crowd who has a tennis nature.”
It was just a pity Argentina’s Gisela Dulko was not here to extend Estonia. The country’s No. 1, however, might be encouraged to return to Fed Cup play by the promise shown by 17-year-old Paula Ormaechea here. The youngster did not give quite as good account of herself yesterday against Maret Ani as she did against Kanepi on the first day. Her rhythm was upset by the 28-year-old Estonian No. 2 who mixed her game up nicely to win 62 63.
It was a respectable enough performance by Ormaechea, who was let down by her forehand, but the fact that she was dissatisfied with it can only augur well for the future. She clearly has the temperament for the peculiar pressures that Fed Cup play brings to bear.
Argentina saves face in doubles
At least the two-time semifinalists saved some face in the doubles in which Maria Irigoyen and Mailen Auroux beat Margit Ruutel and Anett Schutting 75 64.
Dulko seemed to become disheartened by the tie against a sub-standard United States team a year ago when she won both her singles rubbers only to finish on the losing side. However, if she had someone alongside her capable of picking up the odd point she might think it worthwhile persevering.
“I would love to play with her,” said Ormaechea. “Perhaps she can share with us her experiences on the WTA Tour so we can learn.”
Stepping into the shoes of Dulko, the world No. 35, was a girl ranked No. 357 which, of course, was no substitution at all. Salut had been selected in preference to Irigoyen, but in truth no matter who they selected from the players available the outcome would have been the same.
Disappointment for Vazquez
Tito Vazquez, the captain, however, was disappointed with the overall performance and had expected to do better against the Estonian No. 2. He remains hopeful of persuading Dulko to return. “We are definitely a different team – either with her or without her,” he said.
Kanepi, a French Open quarterfinalist in 2008, may not be quite the player she was a year ago but she has remodeled her serve and is slowly coming back to her best. Here she was much too good for her 18-year-old opponent in all facets of the game. It’s never easy to win as easily as you should.
It put the effort of Ormaechea the previous day into perspective because Salut, playing in her first live Fed Cup rubber, was never really capable of extending the Estonian No. 1 in the way her 17-year-old teammate had done in the second set of her match. That said, she won both her games against the formidable Kanepi serve, which was at least something to take away with her.