BARCELONA, SPAIN: Spain took a commanding 2-0 lead over Japan after the first day of their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Play-Off at Real Club de Polo on Saturday.
Spanish No. 1 Carla Suarez Navarro gave her team the lead with a comfortable win over Japanese No. 3 Misaki Doi, 63 64. Silvia Soler-Espinosa secured Spain’s second point with a dominant display against Japanese No. 1 Ayumi Morita 62 63.
Navarro had looked on course for a straight-forward victory in the Spanish sunshine after going a set and two breaks up against her Japanese opponent.
But world No.89 Doi fought back in the second set, breaking twice to restore parity before Navarro served out the match following a decisive third break in the ninth game.
Doi had made an aggressive start to the match, breaking the world No. 23 to love in the first game of the match.
However, Navarro soon asserted herself breaking back in the fourth game and again in the eighth, following persistent pressure on Doi’s serve.
The 24-year-old Spaniard then took control of the second set with breaks in the first and fifth games, before eventually sealing Spain’s first point in 1 hour 29 minutes.
“It’s not easy to play a Fed Cup Play-off at home after such a long time. I was anxious for the first two or three games but bit by bit I managed to dig myself out,” said Navarro.
“But it’s also true that Doi’s game is not easy. You don’t come up against many left-handed players on the circuit."
Doi conceded that she had struggled to adapt to the clay, a surface on which the Spaniards are traditionally very strong.
“I tried to get a point but Navarro is a very tough opponent and is a very good clay court player, so it’s not easy. It’s difficult for the Japan team to play on clay, but I tried my best.”
Silvia Soler-Espinosa secured an impressive victory in the day’s second match, beating world No. 43 Ayumi Morita in 1 hour 34 minutes.
The 25-year-old broke her Japanese opponent twice in the first set and a further three times in the second, as Spain took a huge step towards securing a return to the World Group.
Soler-Espinosa broke in the first game before coming through a pivotal period in which she saved a total of four break points in service games either side of breaking Morita for a second time.
The world No. 65 then dominated the second set, securing breaks in the first, seventh and ninth games.
Morita, who won both of her singles rubbers in Japan’s Fed Cup first round tie against Russia, managed to break back for 4-4, but eventually succumbed after sending a forehand wide.
“I knew before the match that it would be very difficult because Morita is a great player,” said Soler-Espinosa. “But I trusted in my ability and I approached the tie with a lot of hope and with an appetite to win.
“Obviously heading out on court after Carla’s win also gave me confidence. I played very well and gained a point for Spain so I am very happy,” she added.
Morita was philosophical about her performance and was quick to praise the performance of her opponent.
“It was my first match of the year on the clay so it wasn’t easy, but I didn’t think I played too badly today. It was just that Silvia played very solidly. I had a lot of chances and game points but I just couldn’t make it, so I’m very disappointed.”
The result means Japan face a huge task in Sunday’s reverse matches if they are to retain their place in the Fed Cup World Group.
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Captain Conchita Martinez (ESP) - 20/04/2013
Silvia Soler Espinosa (ESP) - 20/04/2013
Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) - 20/04/13
Captain Takeshi Murakami (JPN) - 20/04/2013