By Ros Satar

  • Anna Karolina Schmiedlova def. Heather Watson 6-2 6-3
  • Viktoria Kuzmova def. Harriet Dart 6-7(3) 6-3 7-5
  • Kuzmova v Watson, and Schmiedlova v Dart with doubles likely to be Watson & Dart
BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA – Great Britain face a mountain to climb as they try to keep the tie alive on the second day.

 

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Anna Karolina Schmiedlova def. Heather Watson 6-2 6-3

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The choice of surface certainly was a factor in the first rubber where Anna Karolina Schmiedlova out-manoeuvred Heather Watson for a convincing win to open Slovakia’s account.

Schmiedlova started strongly with an early break and kept the pressure on despite being broken back went on to break Watson twice in succession before wrapping up the first set. Schmiedlova started the second set with a break as well, but this time Watson was able to stay with her, before losing her serve at the end of the set.

 

Viktoria Kuzmova def. Harriet Dart 6-7(3) 6-3 7-5

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Harriet Dart might not be a huge fan of clay, but she attacked her first singles rubber with her trademark feistiness and determination. Dart stayed toe-to-toe with Viktoria Kuzmova, even being the first to bring up a break point, before saving three set points to force a tie-break.

Dart came back at Kuzmova strongly after losing a mini-break, taking the lead. The second set saw both with chances to take the advantage, before Kuzmova went on a run of games, winning four in a row to take the second set. She would win three more before Dart stopped the rot in the decider.

The Brit fought back from 1-3 down breaking back twice to get things back on serve and went on to save five match points in total, before Kuzmova finally dragged herself over the line.

 

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Viktoria Kuzmova v Heather Watson | Watson leads H2H 1-0 (ITF)

It was no doubt a disappointing run-out for Watson, who started the year with some solid performances, as she looked rushed and often pushed too hard, resulting in high errors. Schmiedlova’s heavy hitting saw Watson try and use every trick in the book, and there were flashes of the variety we are used to seeing from the Brit.

Kuzmova is more likely to have a few wobbles as we saw in her match against Dart, so there is hope but there will be a lot of pressure on the Brit’s shoulders as all three rubbers are must-win for Great Britain to be at the April finals in Budapest.

 

Dart v Schmiedlova | First meeting

If this is a live rubber, Dart will need to have the same tenacity to combat Schmiedlova’s skills on the dirt. She should be a match for the Slovakian’s heavy hitting and has shown that she can stick with her opponent on a surface that is not the most natural for her.

 

Doubles

Anne Keothavong has hinted that should the final doubles rubber be live, she would rest the rookies Naiktha Bains and Emma Raducanu in favour of her most experienced players.

She told BBC Sport: “Harriet’s worked incredibly hard on her fitness, she’s so much stronger now than she ever used to be, and Heather’s been in that situation before. I don’t see any problem with singles and doubles.”

Play starts at 15:00 and coverage is on the BBC Red Button, Online and on iPlayer.

 

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