(ISN) – Montreal, – Canada was defeated by Romania in their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie on Sunday after dropping both reverse singles matches on the second day of play at Maurice Richard Arena in Montreal. Canada’s top player Eugenie Bouchard (Montreal) was upset by world No. 104 Andreea Mitu 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in the first match of the day and then Alexandra Dulgheru was able to clinch the victory for her team by defeating Francoise Abanda (Montreal) 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the fourth rubber. Canada went on to win the dead doubles rubber to make the final score in the tie 3-2.
Mitu came out strong and calm despite playing her first ever Fed Cup match as a last-minute replacement for Romania’s No. 1 singles player Irina-Camelia Begu. The players stayed on serve through the first five games of the match, and then swapped breaks once before Bouchard sealed it with a second and final break at 5-4 to take the first set. Mitu came roaring back to start the second, breaking in the opening game and taking a 2-0 lead, but Bouchard came right back to put it back on serve. This time however, it was Mitu who got the late break in the set to go up 5-4 and serve it out to force a third. Mitu kept the momentum going, making seemingly every shot and returning everything Bouchard threw her way. Ultimately, it was too much for the world No. 7 to counter and the Romanian scored the biggest win of her career in her Fed Cup debut and put her team one win away from reaching World Group.
“It was a really close match in the first and second set but I just lost focus in the second and it kept going downhill from there,” said Bouchard. “She was really going for her shots and I was on my heels during the points. Physically I feel fine, I was just moving slower on the court today but I think it’s more of a mental issue than a physical one.”
The pressure was then squarely on Dulgheru to close out the tie as the world No. 69 was the favourite over the No. 260 ranked Abanda. After jumping out to a 2-0 lead, Dulgheru tightened up and Abanda started to hit more freely resulting in a stretch of five straight games to pull ahead. The 18-year-old Canadian then served it out at 5-3 to capture the first set. The second set was spirited and very close with the momentum shifting back and forth. It was Dulgheru that got the extra game to win the set, breaking Abanda at 6-5 after a couple of unforced errors on the forehand side put Abanda on the ropes. Both players began the third set shaky, each dropping their opening service games. It quickly turned into a battle of endurance with the more experienced Dulgheru seeming to have more in the tank versus the tiring Abanda. After breaking at love to go up 4-2, Dulgheru didn’t let up and finished with another two strong games to claim victory for her country.
“I had a really tough match yesterday and then another one today so I don’t think I was in top shape physically or mentally in the third set,” said Abanda. “But overall it was a very good weekend for me and there are a lot of positives for me to take out of these matches. I was definitely the underdog as the lowest-ranked of the eight girls here and I gave it my best. It was a good opportunity for us to stay in World Group but now we will just have to do what we can next year to try and get back there.”
Gabriela Dabrowki (Ottawa) and Sharon Fichman (Toronto) played the dead doubles rubber for Canada against Mitu and Raluca Olaru. They salvaged one more point for the Canadian team to end the weekend on a winning note , 6-1, 4-6, 10-5.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy weekend. The Romanians came in with more momentum than us,” said Team Canada captain Sylvain Bruneau. “Despite her young age, I knew that Françoise (Abanda) was ready to give a big performance and I am happy with her level of play this weekend.”
With the loss, Canada is relegated to World Group II for 2016. Canada played in the 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. Romania advances to the World Group for the first time since this current Fed Cup format was introduced in 2005.
Only eight countries entered in Fed Cup competition qualify for the elite World Group with the next eight qualifying for World Group II. Joining Canada in World Group II for 2016 will be Belarus, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, USA, Australia and Poland. The 2016 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas draw will take place from Roland Garros on June 3, 2015 to determine the first round match-ups for next year.