Marta Kostyuk silenced the local crowd after rising up to the occasion to make a perfect start to her Fed Cup debut, ousting the world number 26 Daria Gavrilova to help Ukraine level the tie at 1-1 after the first day of play.
Coming into her first-ever Fed Cup tie, Kostyuk was given the underdog’s label especially after Ashleigh Barty gave Australia the lead earlier during the day with a win over Lyudmyla Kichenok. Being the 185th-ranked player, Kostyuk was the highest-ranked player for her team after her higher-ranked compatriots opted not to participate. Nonetheless, just when majority played down their chances, Kostyuk helped Ukraine get onto the scoreboard with a confidence-boosting straight-set victory after an hour and 28 minutes of play.
Kostyuk stuns Gavrilova
With the tie being unusually played on grass in February, Gavrilova failed to find her footing on the fast courts as Kostyuk benefited from a slow start by the Australian, who threw in multiple double-faults in the opening game. Having made history by reaching the third-round at the Australian Open weeks ago, Kostyuk continued to ride on her momentum and extended her lead with some commanding play despite looking shaky on serve.
Both Gavrilova and Kostyuk were unable to remain solid on serve, and the end-product of their top-notch returning was seven consecutive breaks. Though, surprisingly it was a perfect tiebreak played by the 15-year-old youngster as she stole the first set 7-6 after 58 minutes of play.
Kostyuk levels the tie
Gavrilova certainly felt the pressure of performing in front of her home crowd. Failing to find the rhythm on her groundstrokes, the Australian was also finding herself having to play catch-up as Kostyuk dictated play throughout the rallies. After nine breaks, the match finally had its first service hold which went in the Ukrainian’s way as she sent in a fantastic passing shot winner on game point.
Leading by a set and a break, Kostyuk looked on course to complete the huge upset when having a 4-1 advantage. Struggling to get going, Gavrilova was frustrated with herself and looked clueless on court several times. The world number 26 was ultimately defeated in straight sets, with Kostyuk claiming the pivotal win to level the scores.
Match Stats: Serving woes for Gavrilova
Throughout the encounter, Gavrilova only managed to hold serve four times and won just a mere 60 percent of first-serve points. Furthermore, her second serves were a huge liability which saw her claiming just five points behind them, although Kostyuk was not much better in that aspect as well.
Defending dominant first-serves were the crucial stat of the match as Kostyuk took full advantage, hitting a total of 20 winners and 26 unforced errors to claim the biggest win of her career. Gavrilova ended the match with disappointing numbers, blasting just 10 winners to a massive 29 errors.
The second day of play will start with both nations’ number one players battling for the win before Gavrilova will look to rebound from her loss and grab a point for Australia. Despite the score being at 1-1 currently, the home nation is still the favorite to close out the victory.