MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: Australia and the Ukraine are 1-all in their World Group play-off tie of Fed Cup by BNP Paribas after dominant performances by their respective No. 1s.
Jarmila Groth made a dream start as the new Aussie spearhead, blitzing Olga Savchuk 61 61 in 48 minutes. Ukraine’s new No. 1 Lesia Tsurenko responded with a 61 64 bombardment of Anastasia Rodionova.
Melbourne’s notoriously fickle weather came to the Fed Cup party; after days of drizzle, players and fans at the Glen Iris Valley club were bathed in autumnal sunshine. In fact, the hospitable Aussie hosts wonder if they haven’t made conditions too cosy for the visiting Ukrainians, the clay surface and club setting creating a home away from home.
“I did everything to save the score” - Tsurenko
Tsurenko certainly looked right at home against the No. 72 ranked Rodionova, pounding her groundstrokes to a 61 3-0 lead, and slamming shut the opening Rodionova had created by clawing back the double-break to level at 3-all. With her sun-bronzed limbs and strong build, the 21-year-old Tsurenko could easily have been mistaken for the Aussie.
“I think I love Australia. Good conditions for me,” said the No. 131 ranked Lesia (pronounced Leeza), who showed the benefits of ITF clay court events in Queensland. She lost to Sally Peers in the final at Ipswich. In her previous trip to Australia, the robustly built 21 year old made her first Grand Slam main draw at Melbourne Park, emerging from qualifying to upset Patty Schnyder in the first round.
Now she has her first Fed Cup win on Aussie soil, playing as No. 1 for the first time and staring at a 0-1 deficit to boot. “I did everything to save the score and win this match,” said Lesia, who had too much firepower and composure for the wily, counterpunching Rodionova.
Against the similarly big-hitting Groth in tomorrow’s all-No. 1 shootout, Tsurenko concedes she will have to play “a little bit smarter. [But] I wouldn’t tell you my secret, sorry. I have to show my best game and then we will see the result.”
Savchuk’s Fed Cup experience just not enough
Earlier, Groth overpowered world No. 147 Savchuk in an exhibition of clinical, clean-hitting tennis. At No. 30 the highest-ranked player in the tie, Groth held a clear edge in power, especially on the return and serve, her delivery often scudding in 20km or more faster than her opponent’s. Off the ground, Jarka clocked a steam of forehand winners.
The 23-year-old Savchuk’s greater Fed Cup experience was to no avail. She book-ended the first set with double-faults. At 61 3-0 down, she had won a single point on the Groth serve. In the second set, Olga broke the Aussie at 1-4 (helped by a Groth double-fault) but failed to hold serve.
It was a demoralising day for the affable Olga, her breezy bonhomie giving way to glumness. “Worst has happened,” she rued, hoping the nightmare experience would loosen her up for tomorrow’s reverse singles. Given the dramatic turnaround for the 1-all scoreline, Olga is feeling better about her shot at redemption in the reverse singles against Rodionova. Even after her nightmare loss today, Savchuk couldn’t fault the setting. “It’s pretty nice club,” she said. “Different from Australian Open, of course. It feels like home.”
So game back on tomorrow. Australian captain David Taylor admits the 1-1 score has him rethinking his makeshift doubles selection of Sally Peers and Sophie Ferguson. The Aussies have it all before them to defend their home turf.
Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) - 16/04/2011
Captain David Taylor (AUS) - 16/04/2011
Olga Savchuk (UKR) - 16/04/2011
Jarmila Groth (AUS) - 16/04/2011