KORTRIJK, Belgium - Spain and Belgium are level at one point apiece after a thrilling first day of Fed Cup World Group Playoff action, with Kirsten Flipkens and Carla Suárez Navarro claiming crucial victories.
Five time Fed Cup champions Spain were seeking a return to the World Group for the first time since 2017, when they lost out to France and suffered a relegation. Meanwhile, a win for Belgium means they’ll extend their stay in the World Group for a third year.
The road to promotion got a little bit complicated for Spain as their No.1 player, Garbiñe Muguruza, suffered a shock defeat to the wily Kirsten Flipkens in the tie’s first rubber.
Flipkens brought out all of her variety against the power-hitter Muguruza, meeting her blow for blow and vexing her with slices, dropshots and lobs. She was rewarded with the lone break in the first set at 5-3 to claim the lead.
Muguruza rallied in the second, recovering from an early break deficit to level the score at 2-2 with some blazing backhands. The pair stayed toe to toe for the rest of the set, but it was Flipkens who blinked in the end as Muguruza broke to love at 6-4 to take the second set.
In the third set, Flipkens seemed to raise her level of aggression against Muguruza, with the players trading breaks early on to make it 2-2. She took charge with a decisive break at 4-3, and roared to victory to seal the rubber, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, to the delight of her home crowd.
With Spain down 0-1, Carla Suárez Navarro had her work cut out for her in the second rubber against Belgium’s No.1, Alison Van Uytvanck. It was the Belgian with all of the chances early on, creating five break points in two Suarez Navarro service games - at 1-0 and again at 2-1 - but both times the Spaniard held firm. Instead, Suárez Navarro struck the decisive blow at 5-3 and took the opening set.
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It was one-way traffic after that for Suárez Navarro, who needed two breaks to open up a daunting 4-1 lead. The wind seemed to leave Van Uytvanck’s sails after that, and Suárez Navarro powered ahead to a 6-3, 6-2 victory to rescue a point for her side.
The two sides will be back out tomorrow, with Van Uytvanck taking on Muguruza and Suárez Navarro facing Flipkens in the singles. In doubles, Ysaline Bonaventure and Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium are set against Spain’s Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov.