EILAT, ISRAEL: Poland’s hard work finally paid off in Eilat on Saturday and they earned a deserved play-off place at the end of their campaign in the Cup by BNP Paribas Europe/Africa Zone Group I event.
Sisters Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska, who carried the burden for the Polish team allowed themselves a warm smile at the end of a very tough week after they overcame up-and-coming Croatia in a thrilling climax to play on what should have been the final evening of the event.
Proceedings will conclude on Sunday morning when Great Britain and Bulgaria compete for the second play-off spot.
Croatia’s young No. 2 player, Ana Konjuh, just 15, put on a dazzling performance in her singles against Urszula Radwanska to set up a possible upset in the tie.
Konjuh, the Australian Open junior champion and a youngster, who looks to have a very bright future as a player, battled back from losing the first set 62, to win the next two 63 76(3) with some blistering groundstrokes and a powerful serve that left Urszula needing to draw on all her skills to try to keep in the running, but Konjuh had just enough to do the business and close out the match in a long tie break.
Elder sister Agnieszka pulled the tie level when she secured victory 63 62 over Croatian No. 1 Donna Vekic with her usual assured and competent play, running the hard-hitting Croat around the court until she made the error.
The two Polish sisters then teamed up to complete victory in the doubles with Urszula showing excellent tactical awareness and good work at the net, with a 62 64 win over Konjuh and Darija Jurak despite the Croats leading in both sets following early breaks.
“We were really playing well all week and I’m very excited to finally go up and we will try to stay up longer than we did last time,” Agnieszka said.
Captain Tomasz Wiktorowszki said the path to qualification was very tough but he credited both sisters for their hard work throughout.
“I think we had the strongest group… we had very difficult matches but Aga did an amazing job and she was our leader but I’m also very proud of Ula because she was a little shaky during the week but she played very well when it counted today,” Wiktorowszki said.
In the other tie of interest on Saturday, Turkey avoided relegation by beating Georgia 2-1.
Great Britain and Bulgaria secured a place in Sunday's promotion play-off after both won their final pool ties.
Britain topped Pool B when Laura Robson and Heather Watson won their singles rubbers against respective opponents Greta Arn and Timea Babos.
Robson fought back from a first-set bagel to defeat Arn 06 62 61 and worryingly for captain Judy Murray had to call on the trainer for a sore shoulder in the first set.
Watson defeated Babos 63 62 and it was her opponent who was in need of attention for an ailing back.
Bulgaria will play Team GB in Sunday's play-off, delayed because of rain on the first day's play on Wednesday. The Bulgarians made light work of Slovenia 3-0 in Pool D.
Dia Evitimova overcame Tina Rupert 61 60 and there was more misery when Slovenia's Tjasa Srimpf had to retire after just one game against Tsvetana Pironkova to gift the tie to the Bulgarians.
Bulgaria then won the doubles rubber 62 63 to complete the whitewash.
The playoff to avoid relegation to Europe/Africa Group II will be between Pool B bottom place finishers, Bosnia/Herzegovina who lost 2-1 to Portugal, and Luxembourg, who were beaten 3-0 by the Netherlands.
Croatia were meeting Poland after the two respectively finished top of Poola A and C in a tie from which the winners will gain a playoff place for World Group II. Georgia, who were bottom of Pool A were playing Turkey, bottom in Pool C, with the losers being relegated to Europe/Africa Group II.
Follow all the action here: 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
Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) - 09/02/2013
Captain Tomasz Wiktorowski (POL)