(February 7, 2015) QUEBEC CITY – Despite some spirited efforts by the local players, there we no surprises on the first day of the Fed Cup World Group first round between Canada and Czech Republic played in Quebec City. Karolina Pliskova and Tereza Smitkova respectively defeated Françoise Abanda and Gabriela Dabrowski in two sets to give the number-one ranked Czech Republic a commanding lead after Day One.
On paper, the matches seemed quite uneven: Pliskova, 22nd, was ranked over 200 spotS higher than 18-year-old Abanda, while Smitkova (62nd) had the clear edge over Dabrowski (185th). In the end, while the winner somewhat never was in doubt, both Canadians fought well to keep the hopes alive and play patches of inspired tennis.
In the first set of her match against Abanda, Pliskova showed the hard-hitting tennis that has led to her impressive rise in the rankings. Never worried on serve, she had eight break chances, converted two of them, and sailed to a solid 6-2 win. The second set was much closer, as Abanda started to hold more comfortably, helped by the errors creeping in Pliskova’s return games. The Czech was the first to obtain breaks points at 2-2 when she stormed to a 0-40 lead, but the young Canadian leveled to deuce. While Abanda saved yet another break point, the Czech’s 12th of the match, she couldn’t save the 13th as Pliskova took a 3-2 lead.
After four comfortable holds, where Abanda raised her intensity level to the delight of the crowd, the Czech showed her first signs of nerves when serving for her first ever Fed Cup win. After failing to convert two match points, Pliskova gave Abanda her first (and only) break chance of the match. Despite her serving woes (the Czech served 4 doubles in that last game only), Pliskova fired an ace out wide to level things at deuce. After hitting a double fault on her fourth match point, the tall Czech found a way to settle down and close out the 6-2 6-4 win to give her country a 1-0 lead in the tie. Asked in her post-match interview about the numerous double faults in that last game, Pliskova replied: ”I had no idea what I was doing in that game, I was shaking”.
Tereza Smitkova and Gabriela Dabrowski stepped on court a few minutes later: the two players knew each other well after exchanging a pair of very lopsided wins in the past two years. The Canadian looked sharp in the first game and broke right away, but the Czech then reeled off six straight games to take a quick 6-1 lead in barely 20 minutes. While Dabrowski was showing off good hands and craftiness, the hard-hitting of the Czech combined with the fast courts led to the Canadian being often too defensive and overpowered.
The second set followed a similar pattern when Dabrowski took a 2-0 lead, by mixing up the rhythm with slices, higher balls and surprise visits to the net. Despite being broken for 2-1, Dabrowski then had a break point of her own, which she couldn’t convert and then an easy sitter on game point on her own serve at 2-2, which she missed in the net. After saving yet another break point at 3-2 to hold, the Czech never looked back and hit a series of flashy winners in the last two games to get the 6-1 6-2 win.
It was also Smitkova’s first ever Fed Cup win and for the Czech, the key was to be aggressive. ”She is a good defender and has good volleys, the Czech mentioned about her opponent. I had to stay focused and aggressive all match long”. It was also Smitkova’s first ever Fed Cup win, and it gives the Czechs a solid lead going into tomorrow’s matches. Asked on the importance of her win, Smitkova added: ”It was very important to get a 2-0 lead today, but we are focused on getting the third and final point early on tomorrow”.
Karolina Pliskova, a strong favorite, will be hoping to seal the deal and lead her team to the World Group semifinals in the first match against Dabrowski tomorrow, which will start at 1pm ET. If a fourth match is required, Abanda would then face Smitkova, while the deciding doubles match would feature Dabrowski and Sharon Fichman facing Lucie Hradecka and Denisa Allertova.
Follow live twitter updates from the Canada- Czech Republic tie on @TennisNewsTPN throughout the weekend.