Bath | Boulter and Konta pull off win marred by bad calls.
Both Johanna Konta and Katie Boulter had to battle through three sets apiece to steer Great Britain through its Fed Cup encounter with Greece in Bath on Thursday.
Boulter was again first up and given a sterner test by Valentini Grammatikopoulou in the opening singles than she had in her debut singles match on Wednesday, but she came through after losing the second set to win, 6-3 4-6 6-3.
The line-calling today didn't affect the outcome of the matches. There were tight line calls. Some of the bad line calls went both ways, but that's tennis. Anne Keothavong
The British No 2 opened by breaking immediately and looked to be continuing as she had started out, serving well to win the first set comfortably in just 34 minutes.
The Greek, though, produced an inspired fightback in the second and Boulter soon found herself with a real dog-fight on her hands after the second slipped away.
Grammatikopoulou went up 2-0 up in the decider but the Brit never gave up, managing to earn a couple of break points in the fourth game.
The World No 171 saved them both, along with two more, before Boulter eventually took the fifth to level the match at 2-2.
She saved two break points to hold for 3-2 and then broke again for 4-2 in a controversial sixth game when two tight line calls went her way.
Soon Boulter was relieved to finish the job, having held her nerve to seal a vital win.
“Everything isn’t always going to be perfect and my mentality is to go out and fight no matter what happens whether you play well, whether you play badly,” the 22-year-old said.
“Anne [Keothavong] was saying to me ‘heart and legs’ and that’s what we’re made of and I think I proved that out there.”
Unfortunately, her delight was somewhat marred by the unsavoury row involving Grammatikopoulou, Greek Captain Anastasios Bavelas and the umpire about what the player believed were ‘unfair’ line calls.
“If I lose, I want to lose nice,” she told reporters afterwards, complaining about three different line calls that had gone against her in the deciding set. “It’s really unfair to play like this.
“Hawk-Eye is from Britain, so we were a bit surprised that they didn’t put it here. This referee [chair umpire] was not so good, so I’m really disappointed in Fed Cup.
“Three calls, all at deuce. You can watch it actually, and I will show her the balls were out.”
Boulter, 22, also complained during the match when an overruled call denied her two break points at the end of the second set.
“There were a couple of bad calls here or there, whether they were good or bad I don’t know,” said Boulter. “There was a let that I thought wasn’t called – it goes both ways.”
“She [Boulter] deserved to win but let’s play fair,” Grammatikopoulou added.
“That’s why we play tennis, you know? Not to judge the lines. It’s really tough. It’s not about how she played, it’s about fair play.
“If the ball was out, I accept. If the ball was in, I accept. But not if it’s really clearly out. It doesn’t matter anymore but if I want to lose, I want to lose nice.”
Compatriot Maria Sakkari was to make the similar accusations following her three-set dismissal at the hands of Jo Konta, who fought back from a set down to beat the Greek No 1, 3-6 6-2 6-3, and give Great Britain an unassailable 2-0 lead in the tie.
The 27-year old Brit arrived on court with her right racket arm taped, and looked to be the weaker of the two in the opening set against the Athenian, who struck the ball cleanly and took her chances well, riding out it out cleverly.
Prospects of a British revival looked somewhat bleak as Konta immediately went down a break in the second, but she battled her way back into the set and managed to level proceedings.
The decider turned into a street-fight of a contest and it was the former World No 4 Konta who raised her game when it really mattered in front of another noisy sell-out crowd.
The 2017 Wimbledon semi-finalist broke Sakkari twice in a row to move 4-1 ahead, and almost won her 5th consecutive game when she had four break points on the Greek’s serve.
The World No 39, however, clung on, despite a disagreement with the umpire, and managed to put Konta under pressure in game 7.
The Brit held firm, and then broke Sakkari again to take the set 6-2 and the match, sending the home crowd into raptures.
The British No 1 had saved two break points in the opening seven games of the decider before striking in the 8th game to lead 5-3, and she still looked strong while serving out what was a draining, physical encounter after 2-hours and 42-minutes.
“I don’t think there’s much better than that – in this kind of arena, in front of this kind of support,” Konta told fedcup.com. “I’ve played on all the centre courts at all the Grand Slams but this is definitely what you look for in a match.
“You look for a competitive match against a really great player, you look for it to go the wire and you look to be in front of a crowd that are so behind you and so invested in the match and who are living it with you.
“It was a complete pleasure to be out on court.”
Not so for Sakkari, who described the line judges as ‘the worst I have ever seen in my life’, adding they ‘were not professional’.
“This is unacceptable. They were making a lot of mistakes,” Sakkari said. “We cannot have amateurs.”
Konta also complained about several calls, including one on match point.
“I think it was quite tough at both our ends but when it’s such a tough match like that – so many heightened emotions – the line judges will feel the same kind of pressure, the same kind of stress,” said Konta, whose win over Sakkari sealed victory for Great Britain in the Group A tie.
“Everybody’s human, but it was definitely a hard thing to contend with.”
The round-robin event, which is being held in Britain for the first time in 26 years, does not have Hawk-Eye technology to review line calls but Konta said ‘it’s the challenge we face’ and added it was ‘the nature of the game’.
LTA Tournament Director Rebecca James said: “The officials selected for this event by the Association of British Tennis Officials (ABTO) have all worked at the highest levels of the game.
“The chair umpires are internationally certified and selected by the ITF. The lines people are all paid, LTA licensed officials, who have worked Wimbledon semi-finals and finals between them, including many on previous Davis Cup World Group ties.”
GB Captain Anne Keothavong added: “The line-calling today didn’t affect the outcome of the matches. There were tight line calls. Some of the bad line calls went both ways, but that’s tennis.
“There was a lot of tension out there. But my brother’s an official so I’m sympathetic to officials these days. It’s not easy out there for them too.”
The doubles had a tough task to try and live up to the two dramatic singles matches, but Katie Swan and Harriet Dart performed impressively again to beat Anna Arkadianou and Despina Papamichail, 6-1 6-4, bringing 3 valuable points home for Great Britain.
In the other Pool A tie, Hungary eased to a 3-0 win over Slovenia to set up a shoot-out for the top spot with Great Britain on Friday evening.
Dalma Galfi gave her team the perfect start with a 6-1 6-4 thrashing of Kaja Juvan, Anna Bondar backed that result up with an impressive 4-6 6-1 6-4 defeat of Dalila Jakupovic and Reka-Luca Jani and Adrienn Nagy completed the whitewash by beating Nina Potocnik and Nika Radisic, 7-6(3) 4-6 6-2, in the doubles.
Meanwhile, in Pool B, Croatia beat Georgia 2-1 to set up a decider with Serbia, but they almost paid for their decision to allow their best player Donna Vekic to sit out the tie and rest.
It all started well enough for Croatia as Ana Konjuh beat Mariam Bolkvadze, 6-4 6-3, but then Jana Fett took Vekic’s place and lost a marathon match, 4-6 6-3 7-5, to Ekaterine Gorgodze.
The Croatians called on Konjuh to join Daria Jurak for the deciding doubles, and it did not look good for them when they fell 3-1 behind to Gorgodze and Oksana Kalashnikova.
To their immense relief, Konjuh and Jurak found their form and levelled the set at 5-5, when Konjuh turned on the style to help her team win 8 of the next 9 games and close out the match, 7-5 6-1.
In the other Pool B tie, Serbia thrashed Turkey 3-0 – Ivana Jorovic beat Cagla Buyukakcay, 6-2 6-3, Aleksandra Krunic edged out Pemra Ozgen, 3-6 6-4 6-2, and Krunic and Olga Danilovic eased to a 6-2 6-3 win over Berfu Cengiz and Ipek Soylu in the doubles.
Play continues on Friday at 4.30pm when GB take on Hungary at the University of Bath for a place in Saturday’s play-off final of the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Europe/Africa Zone Group 1.