EILAT, ISRAEL: Great Britain play Austria and Poland face Sweden for the right to earn a place in April’s Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II play-offs after they finished top of their respective pools in the Europe/Africa Zone Group I tournament on Friday.
Results were very difficult to predict in this year's event at Israel's Red Sea resort city of Eilat and some teams that had expected to do well were not as successful as others who outdid themselves.
Such was the fate of Netherlands, who lost last year's deciding round to Switzerland but this time ended up with three losses in Pool C, after going down to Great Britain, Israel and unfancied Portugal.
The result of that last tie sealed the British berth in the final qualification stage as they were playing against Israel, although they needed no help after beating host country Israel, whose players had a disappointing tournament, with neither Shahar Peer or Julia Glushko able to rise to the occasion in front of the expectant home fans.
Anne Keothavong (No. 88) had little trouble in setting the British team on their way to a 3-0 victory as she beat Glushko (No. 211) 62 62, with the Israeli abandoning all sense of caution and unable to contain her power, hitting many wayward shots.
Elena Baltacha (No. 57) had a more difficult match with Peer (No. 37) but still came through as the Israeli's poor form throughout the week continued and she was broken a number of times as the tie and top spot in the pool was sealed with a 64 63 win for Baltacha.
"Julia was pretty erratic today and it made it easier for me... but she's had singles and doubles the last few days... but for those who have to play singles and doubles every day its quite tiring," Keothavong said.
The British No. 2 said it was about time for the team managed to gain promotion. "I'm desperate for us to get out of this group... it would just mean the world if I could play my part," she added.
Austria beat Bulgaria to secure their place against GB with the doubles needed to decide the tie. Austrian No. 2 Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, who has been the team’s most dependable player this week, beat Elisa Kostova 63 63, but Tsvetana Pironkova (No. 50) got the better of Tamira Paszek 63 16 61 to level the tie. Mayr-Achleitner then teamed up with Yvonne Meusburger to easily win the doubles with an accomplished performance 61 62.
The Radwanska sisters split their singles results and then needed a kick-start in their doubles before securing their spot in the promotion play-offs. Younger sister Urszula lost a tight match 76(7) 64 to Simona Halep before sitting back to watch Agnieszka beat Irina Bergu 61 63 with her usual clever play.
The two Poles then lost the first set of the doubles to the same two opponents, but followed that with 12 straight games for a 46 60 60 drubbing. Polish coach Tomasz Wiktorowski said he expected the doubles to be crucial in Saturday's tie against Sweden.
"In the team competition, in my opinion, the doubles is very important. We feel strong but we will have respect for our opponents, they have really good players," he said after victory had been secured.
After securing their play-offs berth on Thursday, the Swedes played a second-string line-up of Ellen Algurin and Hilda Melander in Friday's tie against Greece, but still managed to win 2-1. However the Poles can expect to face Johanna Larsson (No. 58) and Sofia Arvidsson (No. 74) on Saturday.
Saturday will also see four teams competing to avoid the drop in the relegation play-offs – Estonia meet Netherlands and Greece take on Luxembourg. The other teams will compete for places.
Click the link below to view live scores from Eilat.
- Live scores
Click the link below for more information about Europe/Africa Zone Group I, including individual results from each tie.
- Europe/Africa Zone Group I
Anne Keothavong (GBR) - 03/02/2012
Shahar Peer (ISR) - 03/02/2012
Hilda Melander (SWE) - 03/02/2012
Captain Tomasz Wiktorowski (POL) - 03/03/2012
Patricia Mayr-Achleitner (AUT) - 03/03/2012