TOKYO, JAPAN: Veterans Ayumi Morita and Kimiko Date-Krumm staked Japan to a 2-0 lead over Belgium on the first day of their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off at Ariake Coliseum on Saturday.
Japan No. 1 Morita gave Japan an early lead with a patient and determined effort in beating Belgium No. 2 Alison van Uytvanck 64 64.
Japan No. 2 Date-Krumm followed by scoring a clinical 61 64 victory over Belgium No. 1 Tamaryn Hendler.
Morita puts Japan in driving seat
Morita was down a service break midway through both sets but came roaring back each time to take the match in 1 hour 32 minutes.
The 18-year-old van Uytvanck displayed a strong serve and powerful forehand, and broke Morita in the fourth game of the opening set to take a 3-1 lead.
But the veteran Morita did not get rattled and broke back in the fifth game on the way to winning four straight games and seizing a 5-3 advantage.
Van Uytvanck staved off one set point in the ninth game and held serve to make it 5-4, but Morita closed out the set 6-4 on the strength of her absolutely wicked backhand in 41 minutes
In the second set, the Belgian teen broke in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead, but Morita responded again by breaking back in the seventh game.
Morita then held serve and broke van Uytvanck in the ninth game to go up 5-4, before closing it out on serve.
"It was a tough match," said Morita. "When you don't know anything about your opponent it is very difficult. She presented a challenge because of her serve and powerful forehand.
"The court here is fast and I had trouble with her returns," said Morita. "In the beginning I was defending and not attacking, because I was just seeing how she plays."
Morita noted that her ability to respond to adversity helped her in both sets. "When I lose my serve I have a tendency to get defensive and come back," she stated.
Van Uytvanck illustrated that she clearly has potential for the future and was analytical after the defeat. "In the second set I had more chances, but she took them away and that was the difference," said the Belgian.
Age no barrier for Date-Krumm
Date-Krumm overpowered Hendler in the first set of the second match, quickly taking a 3-0 lead on the way to claiming the set in a crisp 27 minutes.
Hendler turned the tables early in the second set, breaking Date-Krumm in the second game and moving out to a 3-0 lead.
Date-Krumm then stormed back and won the next four games to go up 4-3. The 41-year-old used deep returns and moved her younger opponent around the court as she rallied.
Hendler broke back to level at 4-4, but Date-Krumm broke right back and then held serve to close out the match in 1 hour 21 minutes.
As Date-Krumm tired late in the second set, she called upon the wisdom of her years by just keeping the ball in play and forcing Hendler to commit unforced errors and beat herself.
"She is a really experienced player," said Hendler. "She is an aggressive baseline player and she wasn't giving me anything. I tried to re-evaluate after the first set and figure out what I could do differently.”
Date-Krumm's style of play made it a real challenge for Hendler. "She hits a very flat ball and takes everything early. It made the timing difficult,” added the Belgian.
Hendler said the match with Date-Krumm was especially intense. "It was like a bullfight. She knocked me down and then I knocked her down."
Sunday's reverse singles will see Morita take on Hendler, and if the Belgians can prolong the tie then Date-Krumm will play van Uytvanck before the doubles that pits Rika Fujiwara and Kurumi Nara against Ysaline Bonaventure and An-Sophie Mestach.
The winner of this weekend's tie will earn promotion to the elite eight-nation World Group in next year's Fed Cup, a level that Japan haven't competed at since 2007. The loser, meanwhile, will be relegated to World Group II.
Follow this tie with live scoring:
Ayumi Morita (JPN) - 21/04/2012
Tamaryn Hendler (BEL) - 21/04/2012