MOSCOW – Ayumi Morita stunned world No. 20 Ekaterina Marakova 6-2, 6-2 to pull Japan level at one rubber apiece in its Fed Cup World Group first-round tie against Russia on Saturday.
The pressure was on Morita, ranked 57th in the world, to beat Marakova after veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm had succumbed to world No. 13 Maria Kirilenko at Moscow’s Olympic Stadium.
But she drew on her vast Fed Cup experience and blew away Marakova in under half an hour in the first set. Morita earned a crucial break in the fifth game in the second set and consolidated her advantage with a double break in the seventh, going on to claim a comfortable victory.
“I was nervous but was able to turn that feeling into a desire to win,” said Morita, who is making her 31st overall appearance in the Fed Cup.
“I didn’t make many mistakes and played aggressive tennis. I am surprised that I was able to beat a player in the top 20 by this score.”
Forty-two-year-old veteran Date-Krumm, ranked 77th, gave Kirilenko a run for her money in the day’s opening game before going down 7-6 (7-3), 6-4.
“Finally I managed to win a point for my country’s team,” said Kirilenko, who had an 0-2 record in Fed Cup.
“It helped me a lot to win today,” she said.
The Russian, who won her sixth career title in Pattaya, Thailand, last weekend, said that victory had boosted her confidence.
Date-Krumm, who became the oldest woman to win an Australian Open singles match last month, had a chance for a double break in the seventh game of the first set, but Kirilenko managed to hold on and broke herself to force the set into a tiebreak, which the Russian took, as the Japanese sent a backhand long.
“I was leading 5-4 and then it went to a tiebreak,” Date-Krumm said. “It was a very close match, but I just felt that she was able to win the crucial points. It was very disappointing to lose the first set. She just knew how to play those key points.”
Four-time winner Russia is without Maria Sharapova, Nadia Petrova, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva.
Morita was up against Kirilenko and Date-Krumm was set to take on Marakova in the singles rubbers on Sunday, before Morita and Misaki Doi met Margarita Gasparyan and Elena Vesnina in the doubles.
The winner of the best-of-five tie advances to the semifinals.