Doubles win seals Poland's path to 2022 Qualifiers

16/04/2021 16:00

Magdalena Frech and Katarzyna Kawa recovered from a set down to win a tense doubles match and secure a place for Poland in the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers

By Marcin Stanczuk
Doubles win seals Poland's path to 2022 Qualifiers

Magdalena Frech and Katarzyna Kawa recovered from a set down to defeat the Brazilian pairing of Carolina Meligeni Rodirigues Alves and Luisa Stefani in a tense doubles match and secure a place for Poland in the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers.

The Polish pair eventually served out for a 1-6 6-2 6-4 victory in one hour and 44 minutes - marking the second time on Saturday that Frech had come back from a set down to win.

The world No. 157 defeated Laura Pigossi in a marathon three-setter in the day's opening match, posting a 4-6 6-3 7-6(6) victory in three hours and four minutes. But Alves kept Brazil alive with a 6-3 7-5 triumph over Kawa, who had been brought in to replace Urszula Radwanska, in one hour and 29 minutes to send the tie to the decisive doubles clash.

"It was unbelievable weekend, the matches were definitely very exciting," Kawa enthused after the doubles. "I did not manage [to get the win] in singles, but I am glad that we turned the match with Magdalena Frech in doubles and finally we won. It was a very important match, we felt that the burden was on our shoulders."

Perhaps it was for that reason that Poland started slowly in the doubles. Brazil had also been able to bring in a pair of fresh legs in Luisa Stefani, a doubles specialist, in for the decisive clash, while Frech and Kawa may still have been feeling the effects of their exertion in singles. Indeed, Stefani proved to be the difference between the two teams in the opening set, her superior court-craft outfoxing the Poles on multiple occasions.

But the home team looked a rejuvenated force in the second set. They seized a break in the opening game and were authoritative on serve throughout. Another break at 5-2 sent the clash quickly into a deciding set.

With so much at stake, it was perhaps unsurprising that the third set was nervy affair, with neither side able to establish a lead. The breakthrough came in the ninth game of the set, with the Poles breaking serve before Frech held to love to confidently see out the match.

Frech was undoubtedly the outstanding player from this tie after winning all three of her matches - and her victory over Pigossi in the opening clash on Saturday was an early contender for most dramatic match of the Billie Jean King Cup era, with so many twists and turns and shifts in momentum.

"I was fighting with myself, and she was actually taking advantage of my insecurity," Frech said after her singles match. "I have never seen Laura play so well, she was probably carried by yesterday's victory over Radwanska.

"In the early stages of the match she didn't really make any mistakes. I am glad that I won over the problems and, in the end, I was glad to win."

Frech was correct to analyse that Pigossi started the stronger. Continuing the momentum from her victory against Urszula Radwanska on Friday, the Brazilian broke in the third game before moving into a 3-1 lead. The Pole recovered the break in the sixth game, only to drop her serve again a game later, and Pigossi sererved out to take the opener.

The contest tightened in the early stages of the second set, with a series of attritional rallies but no breakthroughs for either player. It took a rare lapse in concentration from Pigossi to give Frech the chance to serve for the set, with the Brazilian throwing in a poor service game at 3-4 down, allowing Frech to break and then serve out confidently to level the scores.

With neither player able to establish a convincing lead in the deciding set, it eventually took a tiebreak to settle the clash. Frech raced out to an early lead in the breaker before Pigossi hauled herself back to 4-4. A sliced backhand from the Brazilian drifted long to allowed Frech a point on Pigossi's serve, and she completed the victory moments later when a Pigossi forehand sailed wide.  

At this point, it seemed that Poland would run out comfortable victors. Kawa is ranked more than 200 places higher than Alves, and would have been confident of a win despite her omission from Friday's singles matches. But Alves put in a performance that belied her ranking of No. 342 and her win was handsome reward for the consistency she has exhibited this weekend.

Although not having as much power as Kawa, the Brazilian was able to keep the ball in play often enough to take advantage of Kawa's errors. A break for Alves in the fourth game was enough to separate the pair in the first set, with Alves remaining in control on serve throughout. She was broken for the first time in the sixth game of the second set, but recovered the break immediately to level things up again.

Mistakes on serve ultimately cost Kawa in what was her first Billie Jean King Cup singles match. She let the crucial break slip away in the eleventh game, and Alves held firm under pressure to serve out for the victory in the following game.

"There were too many of my mistakes. I know I have this style of play, but today my offensive game was too much," Kawa said of her performance. "Twenty-five errors is an unacceptable number. I had my chances, but I didn't take them. The second set was definitely there to be won."

But her team are likely to forgive that following her performance in the doubles match. Frech and Kawa will be the toast of Bytom this evening.