HYOGO, JAPAN: Ayumi Morita's 36 76(6) 61 victory over Polona Hercog sealed the win for Japan in their World Group II tie against Slovenia on Sunday.
The hosts had taken a 2-0 lead on the first day after Kimiko Date-Krumm and Morita had defeated Hercog and Nastja Kolar, respectively.
Following Sunday’s early result, Japan replaced Date-Krumm with Kurumi Nara in the remaining singles, while Slovenia substituted Petra Rampre for Kolar.
After two sets of absorbing tennis, the match turned on an injury to Hercog. The Slovenian No. 1 has been carrying a minor leg injury that worsened during the intense match against Morita.
Then, after falling to 5-6 in the second-set tiebreak, Hercog felt a sharp pain in her neck and was only able to continue after treatment. But with her physical condition compromised, she was unable to compete at her best and Morita was able to cruise through the final set.
“I had problems with my leg before starting and I just gave everything to win the second set,” Hercog explained. “It was getting worse during the match so I just tried to focus and win the second set, but at 5-5 in the tiebreak I got a pain the neck – a nerve, I think – and that brought me to tears. Against a player like Morita, I don’t think I have a chance unless I am 100 per cent, and my serve wasn’t 100 per cent and I couldn’t move 100 per cent.
“Yesterday was a pretty tough match and when you play against Japanese players especially you have to play low on the legs because they play flat and low. Morita played very aggressively and very flat and she was moving pretty good, and then she started mixing up her serve, too, so it was difficult to play against her.”
Hercog started out brightly, finding good range and speed with her serve, but Morita returned well and matched her taller opponent to 3-3 in the first set when the Slovenian took three straight games, breaking Morita twice.
Both players raised their game in the second set and it looked like Hercog would take all the glory when she broke her Japanese opponent in the sixth game. Surprisingly, Morita broke back to love and both players held their serve to take the set into a tiebreaker.
Again, there was nothing to separate the two players. After serving her ninth ace to go 5-4 up, Hercog then planted two forehands in the net, her injury coming on the second.
She sat down on court in obvious pain and received treatment before carrying on, levelling at 6-6 on an error by Morita. But then she made two forehand errors and the match was tied at 1-1.
In fact, the match was as good as over. Hercog won only six points in the next five games as Morita streaked to a 5-0 lead in the final set. The Slovenian dug deep to come up with her tenth and eleventh service aces in the sixth game – preventing a whitewash – but Morita won the final game to love and was given a congratulatory hug by her captain Takeshi Murakami.
“I’m just so happy because it was a really tough match,” Morita said. “But I’m so happy with the way I played today and finally Japan won 3-0. She played very well, especially her serve.” Morita said that she aimed to keep the ball low.
“I know that she doesn’t like low and fast balls, and the court is fast here so I just tried to play aggressively.”
Captain Maja Matevjic (SLO) - 05/02/2012
Captain Takeshi Murakami (JPN)
Ayumi Morita (JPN) - 05/02/2012