(ISN) – Montreal, – The Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie between Canada and Romania is even at 1-1 after the first day of play at Maurice Richard Arena in Montreal, Quebec. The No. 2 players from both teams upset their higher-ranked opponents as Francoise Abanda (Montreal) defeated No. 33 Irina-Camelia Begu 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the opening match to give Canada the lead, but then world No. 7 Eugenie Bouchard (Montreal) fell to No. 69 Alexandra Dulgheru 6-4, 6-4.
The No. 260-ranked Abanda didn’t seem to have the same nerves that plagued her first Fed Cup effort back in February as she got off to a quick start, breaking her opponent early and taking a 2-0 lead in the first set. However, Begu settled into a groove and went on to win six of the next eight games, breaking Abanda twice, to take the opening set. The second set was a closer affair with both players taking their level up a notch. The pair stayed on serve until a shaky service game from Begu gave Abanda a break to go up 5-3. Abanda was unable to close it out on the first try as Begu broke right back and then saved a set point on her own serve before holding to level the match at 5-all. Abanda did not quit though, capturing the next two games to level the match at one set apiece. The third set opened with Begu going up a break early. She then took a medical timeout after the third game and the momentum changed. Abanda roared back against the struggling Romanian and secured her first victory for Canada in Fed Cup.
“It was a tough match for me and I’m so happy to get through it and get my first Fed Cup win here in Montreal in front of friends and family,” said Abanda. “It’s the biggest win of my career and it’s very special to do it here where I have so much support. It was very disappointing to lose my first Fed Cup match in Quebec so this time I just wanted to keep fighting and I told myself to regroup when it got tough.”
Bouchard attempted to give her team a 2-0 stranglehold lead on Romania, but her match started rough as she and Dulgheru swapped breaks twice before the Romanian went up for good at 5-4 and then served to take the first set. The second set saw both players hold their first games, but then struggle to hold serve once more. With Dulgheru up a break at 5-3, Bouchard saved a match point in her service game to force her opponent to serve it out for herself. She then fought off three more match points on Dulgheru’s serve, including one on a let cord and one double fault from the Romanian. However, Dulgheru stayed mentally strong and closed it out on her fifth opportunity to seal the upset and even the tie for her team.
“It wasn’t a great performance tennis-wise but I tried my best and I can’t ask for more than that,” said Bouchard. “I was expecting a tough match and I knew she would fight and get a lot of balls back. I was maybe trying to rush the points a bit and I want to work on that. I do feel I did a bit better from my last performances so I’m going to focus on the positives and take that forward. I see tomorrow as a chance to do better than today so I’m excited to play.”
The best-of-five tie will now come down to two-out-of-three with the remaining matches to be played on Sunday. Sunday’s lineup will see Bouchard play Begu followed by Abanda against Dulgheru. The potential deciding doubles rubber will be played last with Canada’s Sharon Fichman (Toronto) and Gabriela Dabrowski (Ottawa) against Andreea Mitu and Raluca Olaru of Romania. The team captains have until one hour before the match to change their nominations. All matches will be best-of-three sets.
A win over Romania will allow the Canadian squad to keep their spot in the elite World Group for 2016 while a loss would relegate them to World Group II. Only eight countries entered in Fed Cup competition qualify for the World Group with the next eight qualifying for World Group II. Canada competed in the eight-team World Group for the first time in its history this year but fell to defending champion Czech Republic in the opening round in February to force this weekend’s play-off.
“I’m very happy with the effort from both players today and the way they fought for every point,” said Canadian team captain Sylvain Bruneau. “That was a great win for Francoise and I’m very proud of her for her performance today. With Genie’s match, Dulgheru played very well and Genie just needed to do a few things a bit better and the match would have maybe been different. Tomorrow will be another battle as we know both sides are going to come out to fight again. We are looking forward to it.”