ALICANTE, SPAIN: Conchita Martinez decided to combine youth and experience when she picked her Spanish Fed Cup side, who begin their first leg of their journey back to the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group this weekend.
They start against Ukraine, who arrived at Club Atletico Montemar in Alicante with an unknown team, but a team which is one of the emerging talents of the competition. The expectation is high, so high, in fact, that they have had to increase the stadium’s capacity by 300 seats.
“It is dangerous that people think that we are already through. Ukraine have some good players. Tsurenko has started the year very well and Svitolina arrives having just won a $75,000 tournament.
"They arrive full of confidence and we have to treat this tie the same as any other,” analysed Conchita Martinez who took over the captaincy following the resignation of her predecessor Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.
Women’s tennis in Spain has turned to its other great heroine in an attempt to recover the sense of competition lost during the previous regime, a competitive edge which saw them dominate the competition in the 1990s with a legendary team.
They won five titles from ten finals, six of them consecutive. Not only that but they did it during a crucial period, at the dawn of an exciting new era, when they had the former world No. 2 and 1994 Wimbledon champion.
The reputation of the young Spanish players has been placed on the call-up of the 20-year-old from Alicante, Maria Teresa Torro, who won 7 tournaments on the ITF Pro Circuit tour last year, who was one win short of equalling the consecutive wins record on the tour, something she is hoping to break this year.
Her presence in the team is a signal of intent, but Conchita Martinez has opted for the experience of Lourdes Dominguez Lino and Silvia Soler-Espinosa instead in the singles: “It’s the best option for the start of the tie, I like the look of the draw.”
The tie will start with Lourdes Dominguez Lino against one of the players tipped for great things in the next few years, 18-year-old Elina Svitolina, at 11am local time. “It’s going to be a hard match.
The two players are full of confidence, but Fed Cup is a very different competition and we are very motivated because we are at home” claimed the 31-year-old Dominguez Lino, who is yet to taste victory this year, having lost in the first round of the four tournaments she has played. “The results have not shown it, but I think I am playing well”.
Svitolina arrives in Alicante with the credentials to be one of the most promising players on the tour. When she was just 15, she won Junior Roland Garros in 2010 and, in doing so, rose to world Junior No. 1. Last year, she was a finalist at Junior Wimbledon and she claimed her first WTA title in Pune, India, in only her third tournament, at just 18 years of age.
After her debut in last year’s World Group Play-Off against USA, Svitolina was confirmed as an integral part of the team by Captain Igor Dernovskyi. After her victory last week in the $75,000 ITF tournament in Eilat, Israel, where she won both the singles and the doubles, she is on the verge of breaking into the Top 100 in the rankings. She is currently ranked No. 104.
Silvia Soler-Espinosa will take over in the second rubber against the Ukrainian No. 1 Lesia Tsurenko, with the added incentive of being a local, because they are playing only a few kilometres from her birthplace, Elche.
This is her third consecutive appearance in the Spanish team, although this time she appears as the fifth-best Spanish woman after a second inconsistent year. “I had some little problems but now I have totally recovered and I am 100 per cent”.
She has dropped to world No. 85 this week, the Elche native always raises her game to a higher level in Fed Cup and won her last match against Lesia Tsurenko, which came last year in the second round of Rome, on clay.Soler-Espinosa won 63 63.
“She is coming into the match with a lot of confidence. After Australia, she’s had some good tournaments and, for sure, it’s going to be difficult, but I will fight for every ball and give my all on every point.”
Lesia Tsurenko is the only Ukrainian player in the Top-100 in the rankings at No. 72. She has started the season well, reaching her first semifinal in the tournament in Brisbane and reaching the third round of the Australian Open, where she beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, ranked in the Top-30. She has been known to defeat clay-court specialists like the Italians Francesca Schiavone and Sara Errani.
The decisive day on Sunday will start at 10:30 local time, with the match between the top players, Lourdes Dominguez Lino and Lesia Tsurenko, followed by Silvia Soler-Espinosa against Elina Svitolina. Currently, the doubles will feature Nuria Llagostera-Vives and debutant Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor against Yuliya Beygelzimer and Olga Savchuk, but the doubles nominations have been known to change when a tie has gone to a deciding fifth rubber.
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP) v Elina Svitolina (UKR)
R2: Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) v Lesia Tsurenko (UKR)
R3: Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP) v Lesia Tsurenko (UKR)
R4: Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) v Elina Svitolina (UKR)
R5: Nuria Llagostera Vives/Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor (ESP) v Yuliya Beygelzimer/Olga Savchuk (UKR)
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