It was by no means easy, but Slovakia edged Canada in a pair of three-set singles rubbers on day one of their Fed Cup World Group II playoff tie in Bratislava to take an early stranglehold on the tie.
Cibulkova battles back for early lead
Dominika Cibulkova, ranked more than 200 spots ahead of Francoise Abanda and coming off a title in Katowice, was the heavy favourite going into the opening rubber. However, Abanda has a history of playing her best tennis in the Fed Cup on Saturday was no exception. The 19-year-old got off the better start, protecting her own service well while converting the only break point for either player in the opening set to claim the early lead for the Canadians.
But Cibulkova started to get her act together in the second set. In the opener, Abanda had been largely unchallenged on her own serve, but the Slovakian began to pour on the pressure in the second. She broke twice, and Abanda was only able to reclaim one, as Cibulkova forced the match to a deciding set. The young Canadian’s luck appeared to have run out by the third set, as Cibulkova dominated the final frame. The Katowice champion broke three times and did not allow her opponent a single chance to break back. After exactly two hours, Cibulkova had won 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 to give Slovakia the early lead.
Schmiedlova hangs on to put Slovakia in control
In Canada’s first round loss, Abanda lost the opening rubber in three sets, only for Aleksandra Wozniak to battle back and keep the tie close by winning the second rubber. The Canadians were hoping that history would repeat itself this time around, as the veteran Wozniak took to the court against Anna-Karolina Schmiedlova as the massive underdog, hoping to draw the Canadians even.
Unfortunately, Wozniak did not get off to the start she wanted. She was unable to take advantage of some poor play by Schmiedlova, including five double faults in the first set, only converting two of her eight break point opportunities. Two breaks would not be enough as the 21-year-old Slovak grabbed three breaks of her own to claim the opening set.
The second set was wild, with breaks coming quick and often. This time when the dust finally settled, the Canadian had done enough. While she again allowed three breaks against her own serve, she had broken Schmiedlova four times to send the match to a deciding set.
The Slovak was quick to assert herself in the final set, grabbing an early break and holding that advantage until late in the set. But Wozniak continued to fight and reclaimed the break for 4-4, only to have her young opponent break right back immediately and serve for the match. The Canadian did not give up, saving a match point and reaching break point, but it was not enough as Schmiedlova held on for the 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win and a 2-0 lead for Slovakia.
Canada will need an epic comeback tomorrow if they want to stay in the World Group II. Both Abanda and Wozniak will need to win just to make the doubles tie meaningful.