Russia suffered a huge scare against an underpowered Romanian team during their Fed Cup Qualifiers tie as they were forced to prevail in a deciding doubles rubber to clinch a nervy 3-2 win in Cluj-Napoca. As a result, the Russian players booked their tickets to the inaugural Fed Cup Finals held in Budapest two months later in April.
Despite not having their best players, the Romanian team performed exceptionally well after not given a chance by most pundits. They were able to challenge the Russian team, which is decently strengthed, and gave their fans something to cheer for.
Day One: Romania and Russia split wins to level the tie
For the Russian team, they were expecting a straightforward affair with their opposition’s highest-ranked player being the world number 90 Ana Bogdan and they had the world number 28 Ekaterina Alexandrova and 38th-ranked Veronika Kudermetova raring to go. The tie started with Alexandrova making her Fed Cup debut, beating fellow debutant Elena-Gabriela Ruse in straight sets to clinch the lead for Russia.
However, Bogdan was determined to provide the home fans with some hope as she produced a stellar performance to stun Kudermetova in three sets, overcoming a mid-match hiccup to level the tie at the end of the first day. This also extended Bogdan’s dominance over Kudermetova, winning all three of their career meetings. With the atmosphere spurring the Romanian players on, it seemed as though the upset is not completely out of the question.
Day Two: Russia survives the huge scare
The second day of action started with both teams’ top-ranked player taking the court. Alexandrova found herself stuck in a three-set battle with Bogdan despite losing just a total of nine games in two previous meetings. An inspired Bogdan fought back from a set down to level the rubber, before threatening to steal the lead in the decider but failed to pounce on her chances. Alexandrova earned her only break point of the final set in the last game, and dutifully converted as she regained the lead for Russia.
Kudermetova was expected to close out the tie for Russia, and her chances grew after Romania decided to field Jaqueline Cristian for her Fed Cup debut instead of the initial choice of Elena-Gabriela Ruse. Kudermetova, having won their last meeting 6-1, 6-1, enjoyed the better start but Cristian played at a higher level as the match progressed, coming from 3-5 down to claim the stunning 7-5, 6-3 win in her first match against a top-50 player.
This, once again, provided fresh hope for the roaring Romanians in the stadium as they had the edge in doubles on paper with doubles specialist Raluca Olaru in store.
However, the Romanian captain opted for the in-form pairing of Jaqueline Cristian and Elena-Gabriela Ruse, who partnered to win an ITF 60k title the week previously, whereas Russia went on with their initial pairing of Anna Blinkova and Anna Kalinskaya.
Surprisingly, it was the team of Annas from Russian who put on a masterclass, taking just 74 minutes to triumph 6-3, 6-2 and book their tickets to Budapest in April. It was a disappointment for Cristian and Ruse, who had battled so hard only to see their quest end with a double-fault on match point.