Quebec City, QC, April 19, 2014 – The Canadian Fed Cup team took a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group I play-off tie versus Slovak Republic on Saturday. Aleksandra Wozniak (Blainville, Quebec) and Eugenie Bouchard (Westmount, Quebec) defeated Jana Cepelova and Kristina Kucova respectively in front of a spirited home crowd at PEPS on the campus of Laval University in Quebec City.
World No. 157 Wozniak gave Canada a 1-0 lead thanks to an impressive 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 come-from-behind win over No. 52 Cepelova. Both Cepelova and Wozniak started the match shaky as the two players swapped breaks a total of seven times before the Slovak took the first set 6-4 on her second set point opportunity. Cepelova looked more in form to start the second set and put Wozniak on the ropes by taking quick 4-1 and then 5-2 leads. But Wozniak stormed back to win five straight games and the second set to even the match. The third set was another battle with long games and more breaks exchanged between the players, but it was Wozniak who prevailed after once again breaking with Cepelova serving for the match, and once again completing the comeback to take the set, the match and the early lead in the tie for her team. The win for Wozniak marks her 31st in singles and 39th overall in Fed Cup action, both of which are Canadian records.
“I kept telling myself to fight, to play each point,” said Wozniak. “I had to stay patient and wait for my chances to move forward and be aggressive. She varied her shots well, so it was important to stay focused. The first match is always the most important one and it sets the tone for the weekend so I was glad it resulted in a win.”
Bouchard, ranked No. 18 in the world, then increased Canada’s stranglehold over their opponents with a 7-6(0), 2-6, 6-1 victory against No. 137 Kucova. Considered a huge underdog in the match, Kucova came out firing and jumped to a 3-0 lead. Bouchard fought back to 3-3 but then went down again to 5-3. Similar to Wozniak in her match, Bouchard broke back with her opponent serving for the match and didn’t let up again, taking the first set in a tiebreak where she did not give up a point. The second set started much the same way with Kucova taking a 5-2 lead, but this time she closed it out to force a third and deciding set. It was Bouchard though who took control in the final frame and capitalized on some fatigue from Kucova to get an early break. She kept the pressure on the entire set, despite some determined and relentless effort from her opponent, to avoid the upset and give Canada the 2-0 lead, putting Slovak Republic on the brink of elimination.
“I didn’t play that well, it was a battle, but I am glad that I was able to fight through even though I wasn’t happy with my level,” said Bouchard. “Tomorrow, I am not going to think about making history, I am just going to focus on the job I have to do on the court and treat it like just another match.”
Canada needs just one victory in the final three matches to secure the win and move up to the World Group I for the first time history. Sunday’s lineup will see Bouchard play Cepelova followed by Wozniak against Kucova. The potential deciding doubles rubber will be played last with Canada’s Sharon Fichman (Toronto) and Gabriela Dabrowski (Ottawa) against Cepelova and Janette Husarova for Slovak Republic. The captains are able to substitute players up to one hour prior to the start of the matches.
“Being up 2-0 is the ideal situation, but it was incredibly difficult,” said team captain Sylvain Bruneau. “Every victory is important, it doesn’t matter how we get them. Tomorrow we have to get one more and that’s what we are focused on.”
Canada is currently ranked No. 11 on the ITF Fed Cup rankings while the Slovak Republic is at No. 7. Slovak Republic owns a 1-0 record against Canada in Fed Cup play with the only other meeting between the two countries being in Bratislava in 1997 where Canada fell 5-0 to the hosts.
The winner of this tie will advance to the World Group I for 2015. Only the top eight countries in the world qualify for the World Group and have the ability to play for the Fed Cup championship. The losing nation will compete in World Group II next year.
Play on Sunday resumes at 1 p.m. ET. The matches will be broadcast live on both Sportsnet and TVA Sports. Live scoring can be found on tenniscanada.com. For tickets, call 1-866-653-6203.