Fed Cup Qualifiers: Russia clinches deciding doubles rubber to defeat Romania 3-2
The Russian team celebrates after their victory | Photo: Robert Ghement

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. 

Ana Bogdan was the soul of the Romanian team, pouring her heart on the court in her matches | Photo: Robert Ghement
Ana Bogdan was the soul of the Romanian team, pouring her heart on the court in her matches | Photo: Robert Ghement

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.

Ekaterina Alexandrova was clinical in the tie, bringing to Russia two crucial victories | Photo: Robert Ghement
Ekaterina Alexandrova was clinical in the tie, bringing to Russia two crucial victories | Photo: Robert Ghement

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. 

Jaqueline Cristian delighted the home crowd with an impressive 7-5, 6-3 upset over Kudermetova | Photo: Robert Ghement
Jaqueline Cristian delighted the home crowd with an impressive 7-5, 6-3 upset over Kudermetova | Photo: Robert Ghement

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.

Anna Blinkova and Anna Kalinskaya helped Russia avoid the huge upset | Photo: Robert Ghement
Anna Blinkova and Anna Kalinskaya helped Russia avoid the huge upset | Photo: Robert Ghement

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.

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