Cape Town – The task for the South African Fed Cup team on Wednesday in Montenegro was a major challenge.
The SA girls had to face top seeds, Finland in their final round-robin pool tie of the Europe/Africa Group III tournament in Ulcinj.
But riding on the confidence of back-to-back wins on Monday and Tuesday over Montenegro (2-1) and Kenya (3-0) respectively, the South African girls did themselves proud by upsetting the top seeds in a drama filled tie.
South African beat fancied Finland 2-1 to win Pool B-A and move into the playoff round where they will meet Malta, winners of Pool B-B. The playoff tie will take place on Thursday.
Finland were first out of the blocks with Piia Suomalainen scoring the Fins first point when she came from set down to beat Katie Poluta 6-7(4) 6-0 6-3 in a marathon 2 hour 33 minute battle.
Full marks to Poluta who stretched the Finish number one, a player who has been ranked in the world’s top 100 and has plenty of Fed Cup experience.
It’s Poluta’s first time doing national duty in Fed Cup and the Capetonian who is presently playing US College tennis in Texas won both her singles rubbers against Montenegro and Kenya which was an impressive start for the debutante.
South African No 1 Chanel Simmonds took to court next knowing the hopes of her country firmly rested on her shoulders. Simmonds had to win her rubber to keep South African hopes alive. And the South African managed the pressure, a second set lapse and her opponent Mia Eklund, winning 6-0 5-7 6-1 which levelled the tie at 1-1.
In the final and decisive rubber, SA Captain Rene Plant opted for the experienced doubles combination of Madrie Le Roux and Chanel Simmonds to do duty. It was a wise call by Plant as Le Roux and Simmonds played smart and calculated from the start to finish beating Mia Eklund and Emma Laine, 6-3 7-6 (4) to seal the tie victory.
Captain Rene Plant said she was proud of her girls, “Wow, wow, wow! Both Katie and Chanel played their hearts out in the singles. Chanel dug very deep leading 1-0 in the final set which made the difference. All thanks to Chanel who was the rock and star player in the team today. Chanel led like a champion from the front and played not only a great singles rubber but a great doubles rubber with Madrie. The success in the doubles was Chanel and Madrie changed things up and did the basics well.”
Commenting on Malta as the next opponents, Plant said that Malta were a solid clay court team and that the play-off would be good tough tennis.
Results of the 2018 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Europe/Africa Zone Group III played at the Ulcinj Bellevue in Ulcinj, Montenegro on Wednesday:
South Africa beat Finland 2-1
Katie Poluta (RSA) lost to Piia Suomalainen (FIN) 7-6(4) 0-6 3-6
Chanel Simmonds (RSA) bt Mia Eklund (FIN) 6-0 5-7 6-1
Madrie Le Roux / Chanel Simmonds (RSA) bt Mia Eklund / Emma Laine (FIN) 6-3 7-6(4)
Montenegro beat Kenya 2-1
Ireland beat Uganda 3-0
Malta beat Morocco 3-0