Czechs clinch victory in Thailand
A 62 76(5) victory by Klara Koukalova over Thailand's Montinee Tangphong was enough to secure a place in the World Group Play-offs for the Czech Republic in their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II tie. That gave the visitors a 3-1 lead, but it was by no means an easy afternoon for the hot favourites.
It is often said that rankings count for little in team competition, and for a while it appeared that an upset of earthquake proportions was possible as Nicola Vaidisova, playing on her 17th birthday, was outplayed by 192nd-ranked Suchanun Viratprasert.
Suchanun had already beaten 45th-ranked Iveta Benesova on Saturday, and she took advantage of a performance from her 15th-ranked Czech opponent that was, in the first set, quite dreadful. Vaidisova produced an endless stream of unforced errors, making some poor returns and often overhitting the ball.
Vaidisova recovers after slow start
Her huge forehand constantly misfired, and she had to fight off a break point in the first game, three in the third game and two more in the fifth before she put a forehand wide to give Suchanun a 3-2 lead. As if that wasn’t bad enough, two double-faults helped the Thai break a second time for the set.
But there were two Vaidisovas and two Suchanuns on court, and the match swung dramatically early in the second set. The Thai had to resist three break points before holding for 2-1, and then fell apart as Vaidisova finally found her game and pounded winner after winner.From leading 2-1, Suchanun won just four points out of the next 24 as Vaidisova levelled the match at one set all, and the Thai managed to salvage only four more points in the entire third set as Vaidisova won 36 62 60.
“She just started off pretty good and I was definitely off my rhythm. I did a lot of unforced errors,” said Vaidisova. “But I kept trying to be positive and fight, and it worked. We had the point, that was the most important thing. It doesn’t matter how.”
Koukalova brought in for Benesova
Koukalova, drafted in to play the second singles after Benesova reacted badly to the pressure of team competition and announced she no longer wanted to play, was stretched in the second set, but took the tiebreak 75 with a forehand winner.
Another forehand winner had been enough to earn her a break for a 3-2 lead in the first set, and when she broke again to love to lead 5-2 and then broke to lead 1-0 in the second with a return off a weak second serve it appeared as if the contest would be over quickly.
But Montinee responded by winning the next four games before Koukalova regained the upper hand, broke back for 3-4 and took the set to a tiebreak.
“I felt nervous because it’s a very big responsibility when the team is leading 2-1, and I wanted to win the last point for us,” said Koukalova. “I was one up in the second set and maybe I thought it was over already, but I had to focus again and fight and try to play every point.
Czech Republic eyes Play-offs
The Czech Republic will now go forward to the World Group Play-offs on July 15-16 and compete against one of this weekend’s losers from the World Group. At the same time, Thailand will play in the World Group II Play-offs against one of four qualifiers from the Zonal Group I, comprising of two teams from Europe/Africa and one each from Asia/Oceania and the Americas. The draw will be made in London on 25 April at 11:00 local time.
“I think it’s going to be very, very difficult,” said team manager Petr Pala. “We won’t be seeded, and it depends really on the draw. We need a little luck and a 50/50 match.”
Good job Nicole and the Czech team!