EILAT, ISRAEL: Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal dealt a severe blow to the qualification hopes of home favourites Israel on a day of upsets at the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Europe/Africa Zone Group I tournament on Thursday.
The young Portuguese No. 1, ranked at No. 136, 99 places lower than her Israeli opponent Shahar Peer, played a solid baseline game and capitalised on the Israeli's many errors to register a 61 62 thrashing that both the home favourite and the crowd are certain to remember for a while.
It has also complicated the situation in Pool C where following Israel's surprise 2-1 overall loss to Portugal and Great Britain’s win over Netherlands, the final placings will only be determined at the end of Friday’s action.
Israel got off to a promising start when Julia Glushko put aside the disappointment of Wednesday's defeat to Dutch opponent Bibiane Schoofs to comfortably overpower Maria Joao Koehler 62 64.
But after de Brito’s surprise win, Peer and Glushko then lost a three-set doubles encounter against the same two Portuguese opponents 62 46 64 in a match more notable for the high number of errors than memorable exchanges.
“I was really surprised with myself but I’m also really proud of myself… I just went out and gave it my best, she’s such a great player, I had nothing to lose. I went out thinking that I can do this and it turned out great,” de Brito said as she celebrated after beating Peer.
Many of the local fans mobbed her for her autograph and a few also asked to have their picture taken with the striking 19-year-old.
Great Britain gained their second win after beating Netherlands 2-1 to put them in pole position to qualify from the round-robin group. Schoofs put the Dutch ahead by winning a baseline duel against Anne Keothavong 63 67(3) 63 in a clash that lasted four minutes short of two hours.
Elena Baltacha then levelled the tie by overpowering Michaela Krajicek 63 63 and Heather Watson and Laura Robson ensured victory, winning a tight doubles encounter 75 76(5) against Schoofs and Kiki Bertens in a match lasting 2 hours 8 minutes.
A win for GB over Israel on Friday would ensure they top Pool C, and if coupled with a Dutch win over Portugal, all three other teams would have two losses and a win, and a more detailed scrutiny of the results would be required to determine which team finishes in bottom place. Israel could also win the group if they beat the Brits 3-0 and Netherlands beat Portugal 3-0.
Sweden became the first team to progress to Saturday’s promotion play-offs despite Hungary's Timea Babos (No. 131) upsetting Johanna Larsson (No. 58) 75 75 in the second rubber of their tie. The Swedes were first out of the blocks when Sofia Arvidsson beat Reca Luca Jani 64 63, and they also won the doubles 76(9) 26 64 with the same four players on court.
Poland have yet to drop a set in the competition and added a 3-0 victory over Croatia to the win over Luxembourg on Wednesday. Sisters Agnieska and Urszula Radwanska respectively beat Petra Martic and Donna Vekic for the loss of nine games, and Magda Linette teamed up again with doubles specialist Alicja Rosolska to beat Croatian pairing Vekic and Ani Mijacika 75 75.
The Poles, who were pipped in a promotion tie last year by Belarus, are strongly positioned to finish top of Pool D and will do so if they beat Romania, who also inflicted a 3-0 defeat on Luxembourg.
In another upset, Austria's No. 1 Tamira Pasek (No. 48) was beaten against the odds, going down 64 76(3) to Estonia's Anett Kontaveit ranked a whopping 540 places below her. The Estonian used powerful baseline shots and forced Pasek into committing many unforced errors, but it was to little avail as the Austrians came through 2-1 in the tie.
Patricia Mayr-Achleitner crushed Tatjana Vorobjova 60 60 and Pasek made amends by teaming up with Sandra Klemenschits to beat the same two Estonian opponents 64 64 in the deciding doubles.
The result means that Austria will play Bulgaria, who beat Estonia on Wednesday, to decide who tops Pool A that is made up of three teams.
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
Michelle Larcher de Brito (POR) - 02/02/2012
Elena Baltacha (GBR) - 02/02/2012
Bibiane Schoofs (NED) - 02/02/2012