Fed Cup: Brits battle bravely before falling 3-1
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Great Britain put up an epic fight on the second day of their Fed Cup Finals qualifier, but the home nation were the ones to prevail 3-1.
Heather Watson was up first and kept British hopes alive with a straight sets victory over Rebecca Sramkova. After Slovakia took a 2-0 lead on the opening day of the Fed Cup Finals qualifier, the pressure was on the British No.2 but she rose to the occasion and put the Brits on the scoreboard to make it 2-1.
Watson was set to play Viktoria Kuzmova, but Slovakia's top ranked player withdrew minutes before the match. The world No.65 had been pushed all the way by British No.3 Harriet Dart on Friday evening in a three-set thriller just shy of hitting the three-hour mark.
Watson, who fell 6-2, 6-3 to world No.199 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova on Friday, found her form on the indoor clay court at the AXA Arena and won the opening set 6-0 in just 26 minutes. World No.202 Sramkova fought back in the second set, and despite being broken 2-2, broke Watson straight back to make it 3-2. The next five games went on serve, but Watson broke again when it mattered at 5-5, before delighting the roaring GB team bench by serving it out.
By beating Sramkova, the 27-year-old from Guernsey is now tied with GB Captain Anne Keothavong on second most Fed Cup singles wins for Great Britain.
Watson's 6-0, 7-5 triumph meant it was time for Harriet Dart's second Fed Cup singles appearance as she faced Schmiedlova. The 23-year-old maintained her impressive form from Friday and it was neck and neck in the opening set, but the Slovak got the crucial break at 5-6, setting her up to successfully serve it out. Dart dug deep in the second set and conjured up seven break points, but Slovakia's former world No.26 proved resilient and hung in to clinch a 7-5, 6-3 victory.
The result means Great Britain narrowly miss out on a place in the new Fed Cup Finals, taking place in Budapest 14-19 April 2020. They will return to action in the Fed Cup Play-Offs (17-18 April), with a place in the 2021 Fed Cup Finals qualifiers at stake.