MARBELLA, SPAIN: Slovak Republic has claimed a World Group place at their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off on Sunday, as Spain dropped into World Group II.
Following a 64 64 win by 17th-ranked Dominika Cibulkova against Spain’s Silvia Soler-Espinosa, world number 20 Daniela Hantuchova won 06 76(4) 64 against Lourdes Dominguez-Lino after 2 hours 42 minutes.
Spurred on by her shock win against Hantuchova yesterday, the 65th-ranked Soler-Espinosa started powerfully, taking Cibulkova to break point twice in the first game.
In a 60-minute set in which neither player seemed fully comfortable on their serve, Cibulkova broke the Spaniard in the second game only to be broken straight back in the third.
While Soler-Espinosa managed to save break point in the fourth, the Slovakian broke for a second time in the sixth. Hanging on, the Spaniard earned two more break points in the seventh – and two set points in the eighth – but eventually was outdone by the Slovak.
The second set stayed on serve until the sixth game when the Slovak finally broke the Spaniard – triggering an exchange of serve breaks in five consecutive games.
In the tenth, the Spaniard faltered at the end of a particularly energetic rally which brought the game to match point, from which the 22-year-old Slovak triumphed to clinch the game in a 50 minute second set.
“It was quite a tough match and Cibulkova was the clear favourite because of her ranking. I tried to get out of it by playing aggressively but she’s a really good player and in the end she outplayed me tactically.”
Cibulkova said: “It wasn’t easy today – it was an especially tough match. She was playing aggressively and serving well. But I showed that I am better maybe mentally.
“I was just going for it and I was confident, and that was the key to winning."
With Spain 2-1 down, the pressure was on 31-year-old Dominguez-Lino to keep alive her nation’s hope of retaining its World Group place.
But despite a dominant first set which she won 6-0 in an impressive 31 minutes, the Spaniard was unable to maintain her strong start against Hantuchova.
In the second set the 28-year-old Slovak broke her Spanish opponent twice, to put her 4-0 up. But Dominguez-Lino finally recovered one of the breaks before again being broken in the 11th.
With the match almost sealed for Slovakia at set point in game 12, the home fans were given fresh hope when Hantuchova threw away two set points to lose her serve with a double fault.
The second set was eventually won by the Slovak No. 2 in a tiebreak at the end of a second set lasting 1 hour 14 minutes.
The third set was another tightly-fought contest, with Hantuchova eventually prevailing - sealing Slovak Republic’s place in the World Group.
“I’m really proud of the way I have played,” said Hantuchova. “It was a very tough match for me, especially with my injury. I was struggling a lot and I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to play, and that is why this victory is that much more important.
“We had to really play well in the singles because they are a very dangerous doubles team. It was great that we were able to close it like this, and that we are back in the World Group.
“We are back where we belong now. I definitely feel we belong to the top eight teams in the world.”
Dominguez-Lino said: “It was a great weekend for me and for the team. We played well yesterday and today. I am sad because we lost, but we were close to making a good response, but it’s fine.”
“We are sad because we are going down, but tomorrow we have to think that next year we have to win.”
The final rubber was taken by the hosts as established doubles pairing Nuria Llagostera Vives and Arantxa Parra-Santonja defeated Magdalena Rybarikova and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 60 67(7) 63, to leave the final score at 3-2.
Captain Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (ESP) - 22/04/2012
Captain Matej Liptak (SVK) - 22/04/2012
Lourdes Dominguez-Lino (ESP) - 22/04/2012
Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) - 22/04/2012