Miki | British Heartbreak
The British Fed Cup team came tantalisingly close to gaining the promotion they were targeting in Japan but just failed to convert the final doubles rubber to lose out 3-2 to the Japanese in the Promotion Play-Off tie played at the Bourbon Beans Dome in Miki (north of Kobe). The reward for the winners is promotion into the World Group II competition next year.
We left everything we had out there. As Jo said, one of these days, things will eventually go our way Heather Watson
With the tie tied at a rubber a-piece following the first day’s play, Jo Konta played one of her best matches of the season when play resumed on the second day, to beat rising star Naomi Osaka 6-3 6-3. The British No.1 did a brilliant job of managing her own service games and didn’t face a break point until her 7th service game of the match.
Konta won five games in a row from 2-3 down in the first set, crucially held from 15-40 at 2-2 in the second saving the only break points she faced in the match and decisively broke in the next game, holding on impressively to claim the rubber after 75 minutes and take a 2-1 lead in the tie.
“I knew going into the match against Naomi I wasn’t going to have much say sometimes. I felt very comfortable just knowing I was going to have to work hard, hang in there but at the same tome take my opportunities and felt overall, I got the balance just right. I was really happy with how I executed,” Konta said following her win
In a nail-biting second singles, Japanese No.2 Kurumi Nara refused to lie down levelling the tie at 2-2 by winning 7-6(7) 6-4 against the British No.2, Heather Watson who despite leading in the first set, failed to serve out when the chance came. She also missed three consecutive set points in the tiebreak before conceding it 9-7 after 64 minutes.
In the second set, Watson did well to recover from 0-3 to 3-3 and broke back from 3-5 only to drop serve a sixth time in the match, which lasted one hour and 47-minutes
And so, after a 30-minute break, to the crucial doubles rubber with Anne Keothavong, the GB captain, electing to play Konta and Watson against the experienced Japanese combination of Miya Kato and Makoto Ninomiya only to fall 3-6 6-3 6-3 after two-hours and 11-minutes.
The deciding rubber proved to be an exciting affair with the initiative swinging back and forth and even in the third set, the result hung in the balance with the games going with serve until Watson was broken in the 7th allowing Japan to run off the last four games to claim the third point and a place in the World Group of the Fed Cup.
Jo Konta, Heather Watson, Fed Cup
Captain Keothavong commented, “Right now we are gutted about the result. One day our opportunity will come. If you keep knocking on the door, it will eventually open. It wasn’t to be this year but who is to say, it won’t be next year? I said all along it was going to be who produced the better tennis on the day who would win. That was Japan today and I congratulate them on their victory. The Japanese players were definitely able to rise to the occasion with the home support. I dearly hope our team get that opportunity. I’m proud of the effort both Jo and Heather put in today in singles and doubles and despite the short turn-around time, I have no doubts that was the right decision for them to play the doubles.”
Konta added, “We have to recognise the effort we have put in the last two years getting out of the zone. People underestimate the task it is to get out of that Euro Africa Zone group. Some of the best nations are in that group when you look at the depth of the other zonal groups around the world. I’m very proud of the fact we keep putting ourselves in this position.”
Watson confirmed, “We left everything we had out there. As Jo said, one of these days, things will eventually go our way.”