MOSCOW, RUSSIA: The hosts are in a commanding position after the opening singles of their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas first round tie with Spain, as Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsova both eased to straight-sets victories against Silvia Soler-Espinosa and Carla Suarez Navarro respectively.
Sharapova’s first match in this competition in a year was in stark contrast to her effort in 2011, where she produced a lacklustre performance and was easily beaten by France’s Virginie Razzano.
However, her opponent 12 months on, Silvia Soler-Espinosa, was given a baptism of fire in her debut Fed Cup match, as she struggled to cope with the world No. 3’s power and range of shots from the baseline.
The Russian did start slowly as she dropped her opening service game, but that was to be the only blip on what was a very solid performance by the 24-year-old, as she wrapped up victory in just under an hour-and-a-half.
“It was a little tough at the beginning and I felt a bit nervous as I didn’t play so well last year and I really wanted to change that result and I really concentrated on my game even despite the fact that I didn’t know that much about my opponent,” Sharapova said.
Soler-Espinosa was given very few opportunities against her opponent, and the same was true for Carla Suarez Navarro in her match with Svetlana Kuznetsova, as the St. Petersburg native produced a dominant performance to put Russia into a two rubbers to love lead, even though the Russian wasn’t even sure that she would play in the tie.
“I hadn’t been feeling very well over the last few days as it was very difficult for me to acclimatise after playing in the Australian Open, but I felt better and I felt very comfortable today out there on the court.”
Suarez Navarro had actually won their last meeting 18 months ago, but she admitted that with Kuznetsova in the form she was in today, the Spaniard had little chance of gaining a much-needed victory for her country.
“Her forehand and backhand was excellent,” said the Spaniard. “I thought I served well, but it was difficult for me to try and do anything. I had a chance in the first set when I was 4-3 up, but I couldn’t press home that advantage and Svetlana was just playing very good tennis today.”
Russia is in a commanding position going into Sunday’s reverse singles, and with the form that Sharapova and Kuznetosva showed, it’s going to be very difficult for the visitors, who are missing their two top ranked players to try to make a comeback. However, Kuznetsova is not taking anything for granted until victory is finally assured.
She said: “Yes we are two love up, but we can’t relax at the moment. We have to make sure that we stay focused and get the all-important third victory tomorrow.”
Maria Sharapova (RUS) - 04/02/2012
Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) - 04/02/2012
Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) - 04/02/2012
Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) - 04/02/2012