ACES: Fed. Cup 2018

Photos by Max Gao

June 20, 2018

For the second time in as many years, the Canadian Fed Cup team returned to Montréal to battle for a place in next year’s World Group II. In one of the most bizarre ties in recent memory, Canada edged Ukraine in a dramatic 3-2 victory, which was largely aided by Quebec’s Eugenie Bouchard, who clinched two huge singles victories in her first Fed Cup tie since 2015. After Ukraine evened things up with victories from Lesia Tsurenko and Kateryna Bondarenko, respectively, it was the all-Ontarian team of Bianca Andreescu and Gabriela Dabrowski who clinched the win for the Canadians in a dramatic three-set battle, sending the host nation back into World Group II for another year.

Mississauga, Ont.’s Bianca Andreescu hits a forehand during the first match of the 2018 Fed Cup World Group II play-off tie between Canada and Ukraine. The Canadian played extremely well for the first half of the match, considering she was a last-minute replacement for an injured Françoise Abanda, finding herself a set and 3-1 up on world number 41 Lesia Tsurenko before her more experienced counterpart turned around the match.

Bianca Andreescu celebrates after winning a point during her match against Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko. She was by far the better player for the better part of the first set-and-a-half, but just could not sustain her level to get the first point for Canada.

With the effects of a gruelling first two sets beginning to show, Andreescu scarily went down after hitting a backhand during the first point of the fifth game of the final set, clutching at her left calf. She would not be able to continue the match and would later have to be wheeled off the court in a wheelchair after more than 10 minutes of treatment.

Lesia Tsurenko hits a backhand during her match against Canada’s Bianca Andreescu. The Ukrainian showed great resilience, coming from a set and a break down to clinch the first point of the tie for the visiting nation.

In her first Fed Cup match since 2015, Eugenie Bouchard showed glimpses of the form that saw her reach her the Wimbledon final in 2014. She defeated Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko, 6-2, 7-5, to level the tie for the Canadians going into Sunday.

Eugenie Bouchard celebrates after defeating Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko to level the tie for the Canadians after Saturday’s two singles rubbers.

Eugenie Bouchard prepares to return serve during her epic three-set victory over Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko. Bouchard’s return of serve proved to be vitally important in her all-important win for the Canadians, as the hometown favourite broke five times in all after being broken four times herself.

Lesia Tsurenko hits a forehand during her match against Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard. Much like in their previous two meetings, the Ukrainian’s solid counter-punching style continued to give Bouchard trouble throughout the entire match, making for a thrilling and fiercely-contested encounter.

As their gruelling three-set match progressed, both Bouchard and Tsurenko were beginning to feel the effects of their strenuous exchanges, to the point that both women could be seen doubling over or on the ground gasping for air between points.

Victory! Eugenie Bouchard reacts after closing out a gruelling 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(5) win over Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko, which gave the Canadians the early advantage on Sunday.

More than 3,000 fans packed into the temporary 1800-seat venue at the newly-renamed IGA Stadium in Montréal during the weekend, making for an absolutely electric atmosphere.

About a half hour after Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko defeated Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski, who acted as a last-minute replacement, in the second reverse singles rubber of the day, both women were back on court to compete in the decisive fifth doubles rubber. While Bondarenko teamed up with Olga Savchuk, Dabrowski teamed up with Andreescu, who said she was feeling better after a full day of treatment.

Ukrainians Kateryna Bondarenko and Olga Savchuk were undefeated in Fed Cup action going into this winner-take-all, fifth rubber; they were 6-0 as a team and had only dropped one set in those six matches.

The all-Ontarian team of Andreescu and Dabrowski started beautifully, taking the opening set 6-3 and had chances to pull away with the victory in the second before their more experienced counterparts took the second, 6-4.

Paired with Andreescu’s youthful energy and effortless power, Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski, who cracked the top 10 in doubles earlier this season, used her doubles prowess to help see off the experienced team of Bondarenko and Savchuk in three sets.

Andreescu and Dabrowski embrace after sealing the decisive victory for Canada in their World Group II play-off tie with Ukraine, which means the Canadians will retain their World Group II status in 2019.

The Canadians celebrate after their victory over Ukraine on Sunday.

The Canadian Fed Cup team for the weekend, comprised of Eugenie Bouchard, Bianca Andreescu, Gabriela Dabrowski and Françoise Abanda, do a victory lap around the courts after the decisive doubles match. The Canadians’ opponent in next February’s World Group II tie has yet to be determined.