By Ros Satar
- Slovakia beat Great Britain 3-1 to advance to the Fed Cup Finals
- Heather Watson kept Britain in the tie, with Harriet Dart being edged out by Anna Karolina Schmiedlova
- Great Britain will compete in the April Play-offs to stay in the Qualification group for 2021.
BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA – Slovakia end Great Britain’s hope of reaching the Fed Cup Finals with a 3-1 win, sending Britain to the play-offs.
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Heather Watson def. Rebecca Sramkova 6-0, 7-5
It was by far a more measured approach by Heather Watson in view of the change of team from the Slovakians, substituting Rebecca Sramkova in for an exhausted Viktoria Kuzmova. The No. 1 Slovakian had been pushed to the limit in a decider against Harriet Dart and perhaps the pressure had told as she pulled out before the start of the third rubber.
Against the World No. 202, Watson needed to assert some authority, and it was a less nervy match, with Watson coasting through the first set without dropping a game. It was a much-needed shot of confidence in the arm after a tough loss against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the first rubber.
Sramkova settled a little more in the early part of the second set, and Watson looked a little under pressure before the errors started to rack up for Sramkova as some wild hitting gave Watson a break lead, only for Sramkova to break straight back.
However, the nerves soon returned to the Slovakian as Watson broke once more, before coming out to serve for the match and to keep the Brits in the tie.
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Anna Karolina Schmiedlova def. Harriet Dart 7-5, 6-3
The pressure shifted to Dart, whose fight and hustle gave Kuzmova a real headache at times in the second rubber, as she came very close to levelling the tie on the first day. Starting perhaps a little less sharp as she had done on day One, Dart did stay toe-to-toe with Schmiedlova.
The Slovakian put her under pressure but could not break the Brit and even though she was rewarded with the break later in the set, Dart broke straight back, but could not hold off the deep and pounding ball-striking from the clay-courter, narrowly losing the first set.
The second set saw break point chances come and go for Dart, while Schmiedlova made no mistake when her first chance, to take the lead. Dart had three more chances to pull off the kind of Houdini act she did on the first day, but failed to convert on three more tries, finally surrendering the match on the third match point.
This was always going to be a tough ask for the British team, especially missing Johanna Konta and Katie Boulter, but there was plenty for them to be proud of, as Anne Keothavong explained:
“You help make everything special for us!”
— LTA (@the_LTA) February 8, 2020
Great Britain will now need to win a play-off tie in April for the Finals qualification process in 2021, but a defeat would send them back into the Europe/Africa zone.
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