The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off is 2-0 in favour of the Czech Republic after the first day of play at Agrofert Arena. Rebecca Marino (Vancouver, BC) and Leylah Annie Fernandez (Laval, QC) were unable to get the win in their opening matches.
Rebecca Marino, currently ranked no. 184 in the world, was the first to take to the court on Saturday, facing Karolina Muchova, the world no. 106. The two players exchanged many breaks in the opening set, with Muchova managing to hold once more than the Canadian. In the second, Marino was broken out of the gate and trailed early on. Despite her valiant efforts at the end of the match, the Vancouver native was unable to complete the comeback, falling 6-3, 6-0. This was Marino’s first singles match in Fed Cup since 2011, she played in the doubles rubber this past February in the Netherlands.
“It has been eight years since I played my last singles tie and I am happy that I got the chance to do that again. For sure, it is disappointing to lose the match, but to have been able to get here in the first place, I am very proud of myself. It was a good match, I started out a bit nervous, but was able to settle into the match halfway through the first set. There were a lot of good points, unfortunately some of the key ones did not go my way today,” stated Marino.
Leylah Annie Fernandez was looking to even the score for her country, taking on the No. 1 player the Czech Republic, Marketa Vondrousova. At 16 years, 7 months and 15 days, she is the youngest player to take part in a Fed Cup World Group play-off in over a decade. The Canadian went down an early break in the first, but managed to keep up with her more experienced and higher ranked opponent throughout the set. In her first experience representing her country, Fernandez put up a fight, but was unable to walk away with the victory. Vondrousova gave her country the 2-0 lead thanks to a 6-4, 6-1 win.
“My main goal is to go out onto the court and play some good tennis for the fans and for my team. I went out and fought for every point and gave it everything I had. I feel like I am able to compete with these types of players on tour and I am taking a lot from this first Fed Cup match,” said Fernandez. “Honestly, I was a little bit nervous when the match began, but I like to take the nerves and the pressure and use them as motivation to push forward. I loved the energy from the crowd, whether they were cheering for me or against me.”
The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off will continue on Sunday, with both no. 1 players facing off against each other. Marino and Vondrousova have never previously met in their careers, but both players have limited experience playing in the team competition. The Canadian is playing in her fourth tie while the Czech native is playing in her third. The second singles match will feature the no. 2 players from both nations, as Fernandez and Muchova will also be facing off for the very first time. This is the first time that the two players have been selected to represent their countries.
“It was a tough day for us, we went up against more experienced and higher ranked opponents. I know that both of my players gave their best efforts and I am proud of their attitude and how they competed. Unfortunately, we couldn’t come away with the wins, but we still have another day of tennis left tomorrow,” said El Tabakh after Saturday’s matches.
A win over the Czech Republic would bring the Canadian squad into the World Group for 2020, a place they haven’t been since 2015. A loss would bring them back down to the World Group II.
The matches will be broadcast on Sportsnet Now starting at 12 p.m. local time (6 a.m. Eastern time).