USA and Poland to play for Junior Fed Cup glory

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY: Seedings don’t ever guarantee an outcome as was evident by the 2-1 semifinal upset of top seeded Russia by fourth seeded Poland at the Junior Fed Cup Finals by BNP Paribas on Saturday.

Without question, the Russians were the front-runners in Budapest with No. 2 Anastasia Potapova, the reigning Wimbledon champion, and No. 3 Olesya Pervushina, a semifinalist at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, anchoring the team.

During the round-robin portion of the competition the Russians never derailed, winning all nine matches played in straight sets.

In the semifinals, however, Potapova and Pervushina displayed a few too many vulnerabilities. The resolute Polish girls - 15-year-old Iga Swiatek and 14-year-old Maja Chwalinska - were quick to seize upon the moment to find themselves in the final.

“This is amazing,” said Mikolaj Weymann, the Polish captain, seeming almost shocked at the outcome. “The girls made a great, excellent job against Russia, I think the best team at this tournament. I’m so happy - I’m so mixed (emotions), so tired.”

The No. 93 Chwalinska, a savvy if diminutive southpaw, nearly had her way with Potapova in the first rubber, but surrendered to the Russian 36 76(5) 61. Ahead by one set, Chwalkinska had a 4-1 lead in the second set tiebreaker, but lost six of the next seven points to provide Potapova with new life.

“We are very excited about our win today, that we beat Russia,” said Chwalinska, once the outcome was determined. “We are proud of ourselves. I was pretty close to win the singles match today. I was two points from winning against one of the best players in the world.”

In the second match, the No. 12 Iga Swiatek refused to be turned aside by Pervushina.

Swiatek became nervous when serving for the match at 63 5-2 and couldn’t close it out at that juncture. Pervushina helped her out in the next game when at 30-15 she double-faulted twice to give Swiatek her first match point. That opportunity didn’t deliver, but on the next match point, a netted forehand by Pervushina, the two Eastern European nations were set to battle it out in the doubles.

But no duel ensued. Chwalinska and Swiatek pummeled Potapova and Pervushina for a 61 63 win. The Poles served for it at 5-1 in the second set, but played a little tight. They didn’t let go of their second shot at the final at 5-3 with Swiatek serving it out at love.

One person who wasn’t surprised at Poland coming through to the final was USA captain Adam Peterson, who has now led a USA squad to the girls’ final for two consecutive years. This year, the second-seeded USA planted a 3-0 semifinal victory over third-seeded Japan.

“It was definitely a tough match and the Japanese girls are fighters until the end,” Peterson said. “Obviously Russia is very strong, but I thought at the beginning of the tournament that Poland was probably the most dangerous team. Very competitive team. Outstanding number one player (Swiatek) and their number two player (Chwalkinska) reminds me of Patty Schnyder - lefty and crafty, and very young.”

Last year, USA fell to the Czech Republic 2-1 in the final and are hopeful for a different outcome on Sunday. Only Claire Liu is a returning member of the squad this year.

The No. 10 Liu was on tap first and secured the early lead by taking a 62 76(3) win over Yuki Naito. The first set seemed a breeze as Liu raced to a 5-1 lead, but she showed nerves when having to fend off four break points when serving for the set in the eighth game.

The second set was far more competitive. Naito jumped to a 4-2 edge when Lui lost her serve at love in the sixth game. Fortunately for the American, she recouped the service break in the next game and held firm the rest of the way. Liu went ahead 6-1 in the tiebreaker and closed it out on her second match point.

As Liu exited the court, world No. 4 Amanda Anisimova entered for her match against Ayumi Miyamoto.

The 2 hour, 7 minute encounter was fraught with some difficulties for Anisimova. She looked a bit off-kilter at many stages in the match and served up 13 double faults, but they were inconsequential as she sealed semifinal success for the USA.

“I’m proud of myself,” Anisimova said. “I was hoping I’d get myself back together in the third set and I did.”

She took a quick 4-0 lead in the first set, but that 18-point fourth game was a tough serve. By games end the highlights were one ace, four double faults and three break points saved.

In the second set, Anisimova squandered a 4-1 lead and surrendered her serve after having four game points in the 12th game. Instead of moving into a tiebreaker, Miyamoto evened the score to one set apiece.

Fortunately for the USA, Anisimova regained her composure quickly to win the third set 6-0 to finish off Japan’s chances at the final. Instead of playing for the crown, Japan will be jockeying with Russia for third and fourth place.

The USA has been the Junior Fed Cup champion on three occasions - in 2008, 2012 and 2014. Poland took the honours in 2005.