Photo: Martin SIdorjak

After yesterday’s impressive 2-1 victory over defending champs France, the Canadian team presented by Sobeys looked to keep their momentum going against the Russian Tennis Federation (RTF) on day two of the Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

Françoise Abanda was set to play the first rubber of the day against World No. 28 Daria Kasatkina, but a foot injury forced her out of the match, giving Richmond Hill’s Carol Zhao the start.

Despite the last-minute nod, Zhao looked solid right out the gate. The 5-foot-6 Canadian battled hard, holding her ground in the long rallies against much higher-ranked Kasatkina. Unfortunately, her efforts wouldn’t be enough, as Kasatkina claimed the 6-3, 6-1 victory to give the RTF a 1-0 lead in the tie.

In the tight opening set, RTF’s Kasatkina claimed the early break. Zhao was not fazed by it, remained poised, and struck right back to level the score. Later in the set, the World No. 28 started to catch some heat and quietly took another break advantage in the eight game. Zhao did have two break opportunities in the following game but couldn’t manage to convert on either one of them.

Kasatkina was getting progressively better throughout today’s contest and took total control in the second set. The steady Russian kept 76 per cent of first serves in play, won 77 per cent of those points and won 75 per cent of second serve points en route to a 6-1 second-set victory. 

The 59-minute contest gave the RTF their first point at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

Marino falls to Pavlyuchenkova

The second match of the round-robin tie featured both team’s top-ranked singles players – Canada’s Rebecca Marino and RTF’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Yesterday, Marino helped clinch the Canadian team presented by Sobeys’ victory over France with a dominant doubles performance alongside partner Gabriela Dabrowski. Today, she looked to keep their hopes alive against the RTF in singles.

The powerful Canadian did play a singles match against France’s Alize Cornet yesterday but came up just short by a score of 6-4, 7-6(5). Marino, who has a weapon of a serve, struggled on her serves in the Cornet match, keeping only 51 per cent of first serves in play. Unfortunately, the first-serve woes carried over to today’s contest against the World No. 12.

In the first set, Marino kept only 52 per cent of first serves in play while Pavlyuchenkova was holding her serve with ease. Unlike the first match of the day, Marino and Pavlyuchenkova’s match had faster points and shorter rallies. The World No. 12 converted on the lone break point of the set to take it 6-4.

In the second set, Marino started to regain her rhythm in the service department, however, Pavlyuchenkova never lost hers. The servers held the first nine games, which included two break points saved by the Canadian. Marino had an exceptional return game in the 10th and eventually cracked Pavlyuchenkova to claim the second set for the Canadians.

Onto the third set, where Pavlyuchenkova got off to a dream start. She broke Marino’s first and third service games and didn’t allow Marino a chance to get back in the set. Marino lost the match 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

Dabrowski and Marino can’t get it done in doubles

In a do-or-die match for Team Canada, World No. 5 Dabrowski and Marino teamed up again, this time against RTF’s Liudmila Samsonova and Veronika Kudermetova.

Dabrowski and Marino earned the first break to go up 3-1. However, the tenacious Russians bounced back quickly and broke the Canadians next two service games. Now down 5-3 and serving to stay in the match, Marino sailed her forehand long to drop the first set 6-3.

With their backs against the wall, the Canadians were able to set up two break points in the opening game of the second set but failed to convert on both opportunities. With the clutch hold, the RTF started to build up momentum and won the next four games to go up 5-0. Kudermetova served for the match in the seventh game to clinch the 3-0 tie win.

With the loss in doubles, Canada has been officially eliminated from the Billie Jean King Cup Finals.