MOSCOW, RUSSIA: Russia are through to the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas semifinals, but they were pushed all the way by a Japanese side and in particular, Ayumi Morita, who produced some of the best tennis seen over the course of this weekend.
The tie eventually went all the way to a live fifth rubber, but Russia’s doubles pairing of Elena Vesnina and Ekaterina Makarova, who are both very accomplished players in this format, had too much for Morita and Misaki Doi, as they ran out easy straight sets winners, to give their country that all important third point.
“It was tough, but it was an amazing couple of days for us and we are so happy that we beat Japan and it was very difficult for us. Ekaterina was a real hero for us as she helped us win a couple of crucial points”, Vesnina mentioned.
The day had started so well for Japan, after Morita continued her excellent form over the course of the weekend to dispatch Elena Vesnina in just over an hour and a half. The world No. 33, Vesnina, was a late replacement for Maria Kirilenko, who was suffering from illness.
The Japanese number one was in imperious form from the back of the court as she hit a number of stunning shots, which left her Russian opponent helpless, in what Morita described as, “the best tennis I have played all year”. Meanwhile Vesnina was left to reflect on a below par performance.
“I tried my best, but I just have to give credit to my opponent”, the Sochi native mentioned. “She really played well and she was reading my game. It was tough to play out there, I felt a bit of pressure and I didn’t play my best tennis”.
The pressure was firmly on Ekaterina Makarova to try and win her first ever Fed Cup singles match to keep Russia in the contest. The world No.20 was up against the Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm, who mentioned she only decided to play minutes before the rubber as she was suffering from an achilles injury.
The 42 year-old was a shadow of the player who had played so well against Maria Kirilenko on Saturday and the Russian easily won in straight sets for the loss of just two games in exactly one hour. Despite the injury, Date-Krumm said she decided to play as she believed it would be too much pressure to ask rookie Misaki Doi to play her first ever World Group singles match in such a pressurized situation.
“In the morning when I was practicing, it was even difficult to walk”, said the world No.77. “I took some pain killers before the match and adrenaline helped me when I was on court. Makarova is a really tough player and it was hard to get many points out there, but I tried my best, but it just wasn’t enough”.
It was always going to be a tough ask for Japan to play against Vesnina and Makarova in the doubles, who are ranked 9 and 10 respectively in the world in this format. There were plenty of nerves from both pairs early on, but it was the Russian duo who took control of the match, helped by their excellent net play and they eased to a straight sets victory in just over an hour.
The overall result was hard on a Japanese side who produced some excellent tennis over the last two days, but their Fed Cup captain, Takeshi Murakami said there are plenty of positives his team can take out of their performance against such a strong Russian side.
“We were leading 2-1 and we had a chance to win, but this is the Fed Cup and this is tennis”, commented the Japan Fed Cup captain. “My players gave their best and that’s all I can ask of them. This is the start for us, not the finish. We only have three players in the top hundred, and if we want to improve, our players need to get higher rankings. It’s a long way to reach this goal, but we need to try”.
Meanwhile, Russia will now host Slovak Republic in April in the semifinals as they look to try and end their drought of not having won Fed Cup since 2008.
To view match statistics click here: Live scores
Ayumi Morita (JPN) - 10/02/2013 - after doubles
Captain Takeshi Murakami (JPN) - 10/02/2013
Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina (RUS) - 10/02/2013
Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN) - 10/02/2013
Ayumi Morita (JPN) - 10/02/2013
Elena Vesnina (RUS) - 10/02/2013