Following a 3-2 loss to Belarus in the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II first round on Sunday, in a tie that went to a deciding doubles rubber, the Canadian Fed Cup team will now be forced to compete in a play-off tie to avoid relegation. Entering the day tied 1-1, Francoise Abanda (Montreal) earned the go-ahead victory 6-4, 6-4 over world No. 74 Olga Govortsova before Aliaksandra Sasnovich forced a fifth and deciding match with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Aleksandra Wozniak (Blainville, Que.). Govortsova and Sasnovich then teamed up to complete the comeback from 2-1 down with a 6-2, 6-4 triumph over Gabriela Dabrowski (Ottawa) and Carol Zhao (Richmond Hill, Ont.) at PEPS on the campus of Laval University in Quebec City.
Gold medallists at the Pan Am Games last year, Dabrowski and Zhao have enjoyed success together, but Govortsova and Sasnovich (who was a replacement for the originally nominated Vera Lapko) showed their overall experience in the deciding doubles rubber – combined they have played 41 Fed Cup ties to Dabrowski and Zhao’s eight. The Belarusians cruised to the first set as Dabrowski and Zhao did not hold their serve until the first game of the second set. The Canadians had their chances, but Govortsova and Sasnovich maintained control for the duration of the duel, which was Zhao’s Fed Cup debut, and clinched the triumph for Belarus in one hour and nine minutes.
The deciding doubles rubber was required after the teams split the day’s two singles matches. Abanda opened the day on a strong note with her win over Govortsova, who lost both of her singles matches this weekend. It was an up-and-down duel, lasting one hour and 41 minutes, with neither player able to wrest control through the early goings of both sets. Govortsova held 4-2 leads in the first and second sets but No. 343-ranked Abanda climbed back each time. She ultimately was the steadier player throughout the match, using her aggressive play to earn decisive breaks at the 5-4 mark of both sets to clinch the win. In total, 19-year-old Abanda went six-for-14 on break opportunities while saving four of the eight break points she faced en route to her second career Fed Cup win.
— Tennis Canada (@TennisCanada) February 7, 2016
In the second match of the day, Wozniak was unable to summon the same performance that gave her a win a day earlier as she lost in one hour and 35 minutes. The first set was all even with no service breaks until Wozniak dropped her serve at the 4-5 mark. It was another close affair in the second set. Both players had broken each other twice, before Sasnovich clinched again at 5-4 for the victory. The 21-year-old, ranked world No. 99, was the rock of team Belarus through the weekend, going 3-0 in her matches. For Wozniak, it was her 50th Fed Cup contest, and it brings her record to 40-10.
Canada now must participate in a World Group II play-off, set to take place April 16-17, in order to maintain its position in the eight-team second tier of Fed Cup play for 2017. A win in April would leave Canada in World Group II for another year while a loss would drop the team down to Americas Zone Group I, a place it hasn’t been since 2013. For its part, Belarus advances into the World Group play-offs, where it will play for the chance to make World Group for the first time.
“I executed and played the important points well. It was an important match for Canada. I was able to control my emotions. There were times when I was worried because she was playing better, but I stayed strong and focused until the end.”
– Francoise Abanda on her victory versus Govortsova
“I think Sasnovich played a really solid match, and she played better than yesterday. She was mixing it up well and using her angles. She played some solid tennis and I was trying to adjust to the match and play my game. I just have to get back into the game, and get used to playing back-to-back matches in the future.”
– Aleksandra Wozniak on her loss to Sasnovich
“I wouldn’t say that nerves was a deciding factor why we lost. I think [Belarus] played some really good doubles. We had a plan and a strategy but we just weren’t able to execute on certain points, sometimes they got lucky with a let cord or they came up with big serves when we had break points and it’s just little things that in the end didn’t let us roll with any momentum and that was why it was a struggle for us.”
– Gabriela Dabrowski on Canada’s doubles loss
“I came here expecting to contribute and to play and I’m going to answer the call whenever it is needed. We both tried our best out there and sometimes you come up short but you have to learn from the experience.”
– Carol Zhao on her first Fed Cup match being a decisive rubber
“We were very competitive. I couldn’t have asked for much more from the girls, they gave it everything they had in all five matches. It came down to the decisive match and [Belarus] played better doubles today.”
– Canadian team captain Sylvain Bruneau on the tie as a whole
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2017
Canada will compete in the World Group II play-offs on April 16-17, 2016. The official draw to determine the match-ups will take place on Tuesday February 9.
These are the other seven nations who will be competing in the World Group play-offs. The teams will be seeded, with the top four countries drawn against the bottom four. New ITF Nations Rankings will be released on Monday, with Canada currently ranked No. 12.
|NATION||HOME/AWAY||ITF NATIONS RANKING|
|CHINESE TAIPEI||DRAW||No. 49|
Fed Cup World Group II – First Round
Canada vs. Belarus
February 6-7, 2016
PEPS, Laval University, Quebec City
Belarus wins 3-2
|Saturday February 6||First Singles Rubber||Sasnovich d. Abanda 6-4, 2-6, 6-3|
|Saturday February 6||Second Singles Rubber||Wozniak d. Govortsova 6-2, 6-2|
|Sunday February 7||Third Singles Rubber||Abanda d. Govortsova 6-4, 6-4|
|Sunday February 7||Fourth Singles Rubber||Sasnovich d. Wozniak 6-4, 6-4|
|Sunday February 7||Doubles Rubber||Govortsova/Sasnovich d. Dabrowski/Zhao 6-2, 6-4|