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08 February 2014

Spain edges ahead on a rainy day in Seville


By Leigh Walsh

Photo: Daniel MaurerCarla Suarez Navarro (ESP)

SEVILLE, SPAIN: For a while it appeared the weather would be the winner on the opening day of the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first round clash between Spain and Czech Republic in Seville, but Carla Suarez Navarro had other ideas.

The Spanish No. 1 handed her country a 1-0 lead with a 61 64 victory over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova on a rain-interrupted day, which saw the second rubber between Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor and Klara Zakopalova pushed back to Sunday.  

The opening match finished more than six hours after it started due to the unruly elements, but the time on the match clock stood at 52 minutes when Suarez Navarro drew one final error from Zahlavova Strycova’s racket.

After an unusually wet week in Spain, the experts predicted the conditions would spill into the weekend and they weren’t wrong. After a morning of endless drizzle, the start time of 1200 hours was pushed back 45 minutes, and when the players finally took to court they did so under a bleak-looking sky.

Suarez Navarro came into the match with a 3-1 record over Zahlavova Strycova and she continued to assert her dominance in the opening exchanges. The Spanish No. 1’s game style is based on consistency and large margins and she thrived in the blustery conditions against the often-erratic Czech.

The home player opened up a 4-1, 30-15 lead in the first set before rain brought play to a halt at the Centro de Tenis Blas Infante. But when the action resumed at 1730 hours it was a case of more of the same as the world No. 17 fired off back-to-back games to take the opening set 61.

The second set was a tighter affair, but the story remained the same. Suarez Navarro continued to dictate the play from the back of the court, pulling Zahlavova Strycova from side-to-side with a combination of wicked spin and width.

After the opening four games of the second set went on serve, Suarez Navarro snatched a crucial break to go 3-2 up. And from there, she didn’t look back.

The conditions were the topic of conversation in the post-match interviews but Suarez Navarro said she was prepared for the adverse weather. "We were practicing all week with these conditions and for us it wasn’t so difficult," she said. "You need to play very simple. You must concentrate more than in other matches, but for us we want to play a simple game."

Spain’s captain Conchita Martinez was full of praise for her No. 1 player. "She did play really well," said the former Wimbledon champion. "She was very solid from the baseline, being aggressive and trying to take charge of the match. [In these conditions] moving is very important, you always have to be moving. With her type of game, if you play with a lot of top spin it’s easier than if you play flat."

Zahlavova Strycova was downbeat after her loss but took time to praise her Spanish opponent. "The conditions were extremely tough for both sides," said the world No. 69. "I was moving well but Carla is such a good player and she was moving me all the time. She was very solid so I have to give her credit for that."

The Czechs now have to overturn the 1-0 deficit if they’re to reach a sixth successive World Group semifinal and prevent the Spanish reaching their first since 2008.

The second rubber between Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor and Klara Zakopalova will take to court at 1000 hours local time tomorrow.

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    Centro de Tenis Blas Infante, Seville, Spain

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