MURCIA, Spain - World No.3 Garbiñe Muguruza was given all she could handle by an inspired opponent with a ranking over 300 places below her, but ultimately, the Spanish No.1 passed the test.
The two-time Grand Slam champion defeated Paraguay's Montserrat González, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 in two hours, 44 minutes to clinch a 2-0 lead for the hosts in their World Group II Playoff match, as the five-time Fed Cup champions look to avoid relegation to the Europe/Africa Zone Group I next year.
"It's good to win a match when you don't play well, because it shows that I was fighting and that I gave everything I have," Muguruza told reporters after the match, per fedcup.com.
The reigning Wimbledon champion led her 23-year-old opponent, ranked World No.334, by a break twice in the second set, but an inspired González responded to level the match, and never gave in despite falling behind early in the decider.
Muguruza overcame nine double faults and 48 unforced errors in the match, as the aggression of González, particularly off the forehand, helped her produce four times the Spaniard's winner total off the ground.
All but four of the Paraguayan's 28 winners came off that wing, but she also accumulated 60 unforced errors of her own as Muguruza broke serve six times.
"I played a great match today, but she knew how to draw on her experience to close out the match," said Gonzalez. "On one hand I'm happy and on the other I'm not, because I felt close to her and it was a good opportunity for me."
In the first match, Spanish No.2 Carla Suárez Navarro had little such trouble with Paraguyan No.1 and World No.86 Veronica Cepede Royg, winning 6-2, 6-2 in 70 minutes.
With three of the four ties having concluded play for the opening day, Spain was the lone country to have a lead, as the ties between Russia and Latvia, and Great Britain and Japan proved finely poised.
Russia vs. Latvia - 1-1 (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia)
World No.5 and reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko drew visiting Latvia level with hosts Russia after a 7-5, 6-4 win over Ekaterina Makarova.
In the first match, World No.27 Anstasia Pavlyuchenkova gave the hosts a 1-0 lead as she scored an upset victory on paper against World No.15 Anastasija Sevastova, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, in one hour and 51 minutes.
“I really wanted to win this match, I didn’t feel any nervousness [with the team behind],” Ostapenko told reporters after the match, per fedcup.com.
“I just knew that I had to put pressure and play aggressive against my opponent so that she could feel the pressure and that was my tactic.”
Japan vs. Great Britain - 1-1 (Miki, Japan)
Order was maintained at the Bourbon Beans Dome to begin the tie between Japan and Great Britian, as each nation's top player, Naomi Osaka and Johanna Konta, scored a win to close out the first day.
First up, Osaka, the BNP Paribas Open champion and World No.22, improved to 5-0 in her young career in Fed Cup singles matches with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Heather Watson.
The 20-year-old hammered 11 aces and saved all five break points she faced to give the home country an early lead, but Konta responded for the visiting side with a similarly dominant 6-4, 6-2 win over Kurumi Nara.
The final World Group II Playoff, Ukraine at Canada, was got underway later on Saturday afternoon, and wins for Lesia Tsurenko and Eugenie Bouchard put the tie at 1-1 in Montreal.