Jurmala [Latvia], April 17 (ANI): Anastasija Sevastova and Jelena Ostapenko won their opening singles matches against respective Indian opponents Karman Kaur Thandi and Ankita Raina to give Lativa the perfect start to their Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas play-off tie in Jurmala.
Latvian No. 1 Sevastova, ranked 47, posted a straightforward 6-4, 6-0 win over the tall, hard-hitting Thandi, ranked No. 691, but earlier, Ostapenko was made to grind out a 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 win over Raina in a match that contained lots of forced and unforced errors, mainly from the home favourite.
"I'm not happy with the game at all," Ostapenko admitted. "Just happy with the way I fought. I managed to play not my best and won this game and brought my team the point. But in general, it was tough to play her."
Nevertheless, Ostapenko battled through when the match approached its decisive moments for what should have been a much easier win.
Sevastova chose to receive serve at the start of her match and broke immediately to lead against Thandi. She maintained her lead but was broken back in the eighth game before breaking again in the following game and holding on to serve out the set.
Sevastova was more a study in consistency than brilliance, while Thandi, who belted the ball and served powerfully, hit some spectacular groundstrokes, but she did not possess the ability to maintain the level required to throw Sevastova off balance and the Latvian saw out the day's play by winning the second set to love in a match lasting an hour and 17 minutes.
Ostapenko's tireless efforts were rewarded only after she dug as deep as she could, and with a lot of hard graft, she gave hosts an early lead. The Latvian, the world No. 52 and playing as the hosts' No. 2, racked up many wayward shots and unforced errors before experience saw her through to victory in two hours and 24 minutes.
Indian No. 1, Raina, at 174 in the WTA rankings started off a little nervously but soon got into her stride and battled hard from the back of the court, the favoured domain of the home player, the 2017 French Open champion.
India is playing at this stage of the competition for the first time and on paper are the clear underdogs. And while Raina was no slouch and pushed her opponent all the way with some scintillating hitting off both sides, Ostapenko's experience at the highest level and the assuredness of playing at home despite there being no crowd was enough to secure the win.
Ostapenko's play was far from fluent in the opening set but she nevertheless was able to keep ahead of a higher error count by Raina.
There were six breaks of serve in the first set, including both opening games but the telling breaks, came in the fourth and fifth games when Ostapenko broke and then held her serve to open up a clear lead.
Once she had overcome early nerves, Raina belted the ball hard, and although the second set was also noteworthy for its errors rather than its winners, Raina forged a 5-2 lead by breaking Ostapenko twice. The Latvian came back to 5-5 but her concentration wavered once more and the Latvian gave away many points or was beaten for pace by the Indian's prodigious hitting.
By the time of the deciding set, both players were trading shots as equals and the difference between 52 and 174 in the world was undetectable. It was only at the very end that Ostapenko shortened the rallies as much as she could to make things more difficult for Raina, and put paid to what might have been a major upset win for Raina and India.
The action from the BJK Cup playoff tie between India vs. Latvia will continue on Eurosport and Eurosport HD on Saturday. (ANI)