Spain are in the driver's seat in their Fed Cup tie against Japan- can the Spaniards finish off the visitors and qualify for the inaugural Fed Cup finals in April?
Spain vs Japan is live from Murcia on Saturday 8 February from 11am local/10am GMT
Location: Murcia, Spain
Venue: Centro de Tenis La Manga Club, Cartagena
Surface: Clay (outdoors)
Spain: Carla Suarez Navarro, Sara Sorribes Tormo, Aliona Boldosova Zadoinov, Lara Arraubarrena, Georgina Garcia-Perez, Anabel Medina Garrigues (Captain)
Japan: Naomi Osaka, Misaki Doi, Kurumi Nara, Ena Shibahara, Shuko Aoyama, Toshihisa Tsuchihashi (Captain)
Spain vs Japan: The draw
Friday 7 February:
Rubber 1: Sara Sorribes Tormo (SPA) d. Naomi Osaka (JAP) 6-0 6-3
Rubber 2: Carla Suarez Navarro (SPA) d. Misaki Doi (JAP) 6-3 6-4
Saturday 8 February:
Rubber 3: Carla Suarez Navarro (SPA) vs Naomi Osaka (JAP)
Rubber 4: Sara Sorribes Tormo (SPA) vs Misaki Doi (JAP)
Rubber 5: Aliona Boldosova Zadoinov/ Georgina Garcia-Perez (SPA) vs. Ena Shibahara/ Shuko Aoyama (JAP)
NB: Player nominations can change until an hour before the start of play
Day 1 Results
Sara Sorribes Tormo (SPA) d. Naomi Osaka (JAP) 6-0 6-3
Carla Suarez Navarro (SPA) d. Misaki Doi (JAP) 6-3 6-4
Spain took a commanding 2-0 lead in their Fed Cup qualifier against Japan, winning both of their singles matches on Friday.
The result means that they only have to win one of Saturday’s three rubbers to advance to April’s Finals in Budapest.
World No. 78, Sara Sorribes Tormo gave the home team a shock lead, outclassing two-time major winner, Naomi Osaka in the tie’s opening rubber 6-0 6-3. Osaka isn’t renowned for her work on clay, but she did record improved results on the surface last year, and went into the tie as the favourite.
However, the former world No. 1 turned in an error-strewn performance to crash to a heavy defeat- her first in three matches against Sorribes Tormo.
With the security of a 1-0 lead for her country, the very experienced Carla Suarez Navarro put in an efficient performance to beat Japanese No. 2, Misaki Doi in the day’s second rubber. Can she take down Osaka in the first of Saturday’s singles to send Spain into the Finals?
Day 2 Preview
Carla Suarez Navarro (SPA) vs Naomi Osaka (JAP), live from Murcia on Saturday, 8 February from 11:00am local time/ 10:00am GMT
Carla Suarez Navarro will attempt to give Spain an unassailable 3-0 lead and send the hosts into the Fed Cup Finals when she takes on former world No. 1, Naomi Osaka on Saturday.
The 31-year-old Spaniard, set to retire at the end of the season, played her part as Spain took this tie by the scruff of the neck on Friday. Sara Sorribes Tormo had scored a surprise win over Naomi Osaka in the opening rubber, setting the stage for Suarez Navarro to complete the perfect day in Cartagena with a 6-3 6-4 victory over Doi.
Serving at 71%, and converting over half the number of points contested on both her first and second serves, the Spaniard was too good for Doi, wrapping up victory in an hour and 24 minutes. The seven-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist stretched her Fed Cup record to 16-8, and an even more impressive 9-2 on clay.
A former world No. 6, now ranked 55th in the world, Suarez Navarro has not had the best start to 2020, winning just one match between Auckland, Adelaide and the Australian Open. That one win was an impressive one against Aryna Sabalenka in Melbourne- a gentle reminder of the quality the 31-year-old still possesses.
She definitely had too much quality for Misaki Doi on Friday- can she get past Osaka on Saturday?
Osaka will surely be reeling from the heaviness of her loss to Sorribes Tormo, and will be keen to make amends when she confronts Suarez Navarro. It’s a must-win tie for the world No. 10 anyway.
The two-time major winner was completely out of sorts against Sorribes Tormo, spraying a staggering 50 unforced errors in just under 80 minutes of tennis. After dropping the opening set to love, Osaka hinted a revival when she broke for a 2-0 lead in the second set, but it proved to be a false dawn as she lost six of the next seven games.
Osaka converted just 43% of her first serve points, and 28% on her second in a very forgettable performance. Needless to say she will have to be significantly better if she to stand a chance against the wily Suarez Navarro on Saturday.
She is also looking to avoid a third straight defeat, having lost to Coco Gauff in the third round of the Australian Open, where she was defending champion, in her most recent match before this Fed cup tie. The 22-year-old had opened her season with a semi-final run in Brisbane.
Suarez Navarro has scored straight sets victories over Osaka in their two previous matches, in Strasbourg in 2017 and Montreal on 2018, and judging by events on Friday, and the Spaniard’s expertise on this surface, Spain could well close this tie out after three rubbers.
Sara Sorribes Tormo vs Misaki Doi, to follow
Should Naomi Osaka take down Carla Suarez Navarro in the first match of the day, Spain will get a second shot finishing off this tie when Sara Sorribes Tormo takes on Misaki Doi.
Sorribes Tormo is coming off that terrific victory over Osaka, and should be very confident going into Saturday’s rubber. Yes, Osaka was very generous with the unforced errors, but Sorribes Tormo had a job to do, and she did it brilliantly. She limited her errors to six, and defended her serve very well, winning over 50% of points on both her first and second serves.
It was only her second Fed Cup singles win-her first since 2015- taking her overall record to 2-3. Both of her wins have come on clay.
The world No. 79 has won just one WTA Tour main draw this year, against Veronika Kudermetova at the Australian Open, where she was beaten by Anett Kontaveit in the second round. She failed to clear the first round in Shenzhen and Hobart, while she also crashed to an opening round defeat to Ivana Popovic at the ITF W60 meet in Burnie- her most recent event before the Fed Cup.
All of that mattered very little on Friday, as she turned in one of her best performances to defeat Osaka. She might not be required on Saturday, but if she is, she will be hoping to reproduce that level against Doi.
Doi was decent against Suarez Navarro, but she was ultimately undone by the greater clay-court expertise of the former world No. 6. The world No. 87 remains winless this season, having also lost to Kateryna Bondarenko and Harriet Dart in Shenzhen and the Australian Open respectively.
Doi has a 10-9 record in Fed Cup singles matches, but all of her 10 wins have been on hard courts. She is 0-5 on clay. That is a very telling statistic.
Sorribes Tormo may not be quite at the level of Suarez Navarro, but the Spaniard knows her way around this surface, and will fancy her chances against Doi. The Japanese scored a 7-5 7-1 victory over Sorribes Tormo on the hard courts of Hiroshima last year, but on a clay court, with the form she showed on Friday, the Spaniard has got to be heavy favourite.
Doubles Rubber: Aliona Boldosova Zadoinov/ Georgina Garcia-Perez (SPA) vs. Ena Shibahara/ Shuko Aoyama (JAP), to follow singles rubbers
If Japan somehow push this into a doubles rubber, they have got a decent pair, with both of their designated doubles players, Ena Shibahara and Aoyama Shuko ranked among the top-30 doubles players in the world. Spain have listed Georgina Garcia-Perez and Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov as their doubles players, but they have got two top-50 doubles players in their team- Lara Araubarrena (48) and Sorribes Tormo (40) and they may well be drafted in if this tie has a live fifth rubber.