'S-HERTOGENBOSCH, NETHERLANDS: Arantxa Rus beat Misaki Doi 76 63 to give the Netherlands a decisive lead against Japan in their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group II play-off. The Dutch will now feature in next season’s World Group II.
After a shaky first set from both players which Rus only narrowly won in a tiebreak, Rus showed more aggression and precision to take the second set convincingly 63. The ever-introverted Rus even showed a rare clenched fist after the final point before she was congratulated by her positively ecstatic teammates.
“What the girls have done is fantastic. I’m so, so proud of them,” captain Paul Haarhuis said on court. “They fought and fought and never let their spirits down in difficult moments.”
“This is great, I’ve never played for my country at this level before,” Rus said. “And next year the stakes will be even higher. Let’s hope we draw at home so we can get the crowd behind us again.”
While Rus secured the decisive point, Kiki Bertens was the hero for the Dutch as she won her second singles rubber of the weekend in an upset of higher-ranked Kurumi Nara in a thrilling three hour-plus encounter: 76 46 97. On her fifth match point, she forced a Nara volleyed error, threw away her racket, and fell on her back to celebrate the most exciting Fed Cup tie in the Netherlands in years.
In the third set, Bertens had to overcome cramps in both legs and received off-court treatment from the team physiotherapist after she went up 5-4. Between points, Bertens kept moving to avoid the cramps getting to her legs.
During changeovers captain Haarhuis kept massaging her legs as Fed Cup rules only allow one medical timeout. This worked well enough – “apparently I can do this”, Haarhuis said later – and Bertens was even able to raise her game while working the home crowd with racket and arm gestures.
And with Nara raising her game as well, this was easily the weekend’s best match, with long rallies littered with deep, powerful groundstrokes.
“Definitely up there with the best wins in my career,” Bertens said at the press conference. “And the level of play was good too, Top-50 level. But I’m very happy it is finally over, to be honest, because I’m not sure I could have lasted much longer. The cramps started in my calves, went up to my thighs, and just after I thought they had gone, they returned in my fingers. Every shot hurt.”
Even though she lost, Kurumi Nara didn’t have any regrets. “This was a good match and I’m happy with the way I played.” Did she try and do something else after she noticed Bertens having cramps? “No, you shouldn’t change your style of play, I think, when an opponent is hurt – unless she really can’t move of course.”
The Japanese couldn’t blame themselves. They played solidly enough and tried to leave nothing to chance, with team physiotherapist Masako Tanabe measuring the temperature, humidity, and light intensity on court and relaying the information back to captain Yuka Kaneko before the first match. Every little bit of information can make the difference, but this weekend, the Dutch underdogs upped their games and just proved to be too good.
Captain Paul Haarhuis (NED) - 20/04/2014
Captain Yuka Kaneko (JPN) - 20/04/2014
Artantxa Rus (NED) - 20/04/2014
Kiki Bertens (NED) - 20/04/2014
Kurumi Nara (JPN) - 20/04/2014