QUEBEC CITY, CANADA: Now that Canada has advanced further than ever before in Fed Cup by BNP Paribas competition, the reality of joining the world's elite eight nations is sinking in with Eugenie Bouchard and her team-mates.
For Slovak Republic, its loss to Canada this past weekend means an exit from the World Group next year after competing for the past two years at the summit of international team tennis.
Bouchard, the world No. 18, won both of her singles rubbers to secure Canada's third straight point and the tie after team-mate Aleksandra Wozniak battled back to beat Slovak Republic No. 1 Jana Cepelova in the opening rubber Saturday.
Canada's 3-1 World Group play-off victory over the Slovaks secured the North American country's qualification for its first-ever World Group competition next year.
"I think it will be a great few ties next year," Bouchard said Sunday following her 76(6) 63 tie-clinching win against Cepelova. "We don't know who we play yet but we know it's going to be exciting for sure, and I think the fans here, when we play at home they really get into it, especially the Genie Army, who always shows up."
Genie's Army was out in force in Quebec City to support Bouchard, who defeated Karolina Kucova 76(0) 26 61 in the second rubber Saturday, as well as Wozniak and the Canadian doubles team of Sharon Fichman and Gabriela Dabrowski, who were defeated by Janette Husarova and Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, 64 57 [11-9].
"I have not looked ahead, to be honest," said Canadian captain Sylvain Bruneau. "I really focused on this weekend so I didn't want to look at the results or what was happening because I thought I shouldn't go ahead of what was going to happen this weekend, but it's very exciting.
"It's a privilege to be in the World Group among all those top nations and to compete against them and try to keep doing well. It's a lot of fun. It's a great feeling."
Wozniak battled back to claim the opening rubber 46 75 75 on Saturday against Cepelova, who failed to close out 5-2 and 5-3 leads in the second and third sets respectively.
"It's mission accomplished," said Wozniak, who is Canada's all-time leader in Fed Cup victories with 39, including 31 in singles rubbers. "We worked hard this weekend. We had a great opportunity in front of us and we came up with our best tennis. This is like a dream come true. Canada has come far. It's been a long road and finally we're in World Group."
Slovak Republic lost its third tie in a row to fall out of the World Group. After seeing a 2-0 lead slip away before losing to Russia in their 2013 World Group semifinal, the Slovaks lost 3-1 to Germany in their World Group first round tie in February.
World No. 10 Dominika Cibulkova held match point before losing the opening rubber and Germany's Angelique Kerber won the next two rubbers to relegate Slovak Republic to its World Group play-off against a Canadian squad on the rise.
Cibulkova was among Slovak Republic's top three singles players who did not face Canada along with 30th-ranked Daniela Hantuchova and 38th-ranked Magdalena Rybarikova.
"We tried to win every game, every point for our country but we don't have experience like the other players and we don't have our three best players here, and it was tough for us," Cepelova said.
Slovak captain Matej Liptak saw the opportunity for Cepelova, Kucova, Husarova and Schmiedlova to gain valuable learning experience in Fed Cup competition as a positive moving forward.
"I hope that this was a really good experience for my players and I hope that I can use them in the future also," Liptak said. "And maybe that was the difference why they didn't finish the matches like they could because they didn't have the experiences from these matches, so maybe that's good school and good teaching and I hope that in the future they will be better and better."