ALICANTE, SPAIN: There is no better way to make your Fed Cup by BNP Paribas debut than by winning the deciding point for your country. That is exactly what local heroine, 20-year-old Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, knew she would be attempting when she stepped onto the court this morning. A win would send Spain through to the World Group play-offs, and a win was exactly what she delivered. It was an emphatic win at that, defeating Ukraine’s Yuliya Beygelzimer 64 62. The tie, played at the Club Atletico Montemar in Alicante ended 3-1 in Spain’s favour, after Ukraine won the dead doubles rubber.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more. I was a little nervous but I worked hard and took it game-by-game, and I am very happy to have won at home”. Torro-Flor’s happiness was huge, almost as huge as the faith shown by her captain Conchita Martinez. “She might have been surprised but I had total confidence in her. She has a huge potential and if she starts playing more sensibly in her matches, she will fly up the rankings”.
The injury that Lourdes Dominguez Lino suffered yesterday, a muscle strain, could not keep her away from the match which could decide the tie. Her substitution for debutante Torro-Flor answered more tactical questions than physical ones for Conchita Martinez.
What the Spanish captain did not know, however, was that, in the Ukrainian camp, Lesia Tsurenko was forced to pull out after the first day’s play. Her replacement, Yuliya Beygelzimer, returned to Fed Cup action after a five-year break, despite having been nominated in three of the last four squads. Having dropped to No. 167 in the world rankings, the signs were there that she was not in the best of form.
The Alicante crowd were chomping at the bit to see Torro-Flor in action, not just because she is a local favourite, but also because she is widely regarded as one of the hottest prospects of women’s tennis in Spain. The 20-year-old from Villena, where former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero’s academy is based, made an inauspicious start, making early errors, with most hitting the net.
“At the start, my legs weren’t moving, but I loosened it and was able to start playing properly. I had to play with a lot more height because I know that makes these girls less comfortable”. The difference in ability was evident and Torro-Flor broke serve to seal the first set, before racing through the second set with ease.
Torro-Flor’s first call up to the squad came after reaching her first Grand Slam in Australia and capturing her first title in the doubles in Hobart, following an excellent 2012 in which she was the most decorated player on the ITF Pro Circuit, winning a total of seven titles. She was also only one win away from equalling the consecutive win record of 30. “I’m trying not to think of that, but, if it comes, great!”
Her objective for this year is to break in to the Top 100 in the rankings: “It’s going to be a tough year, I know that I have to keep improving and reach a higher level. In the WTA tour the girls are stronger mentally, they don’t give in when facing defeat and they maintain a high level throughout every match”.
The tie ended with a victory for the Ukrainian doubles team of Olga Savchuk and Yuliya Beygelzimer against the local hero and Nuria Llagostera Vives 63 26 10-5. Spain will know who they will face in the play-off this Wednesday, with the ties to be played on 20-21 April.
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Spanish captain Conchita Martinez - 10/02/2013