Tennis: Latvia overpower India 3-1 in Billie Jean King Cup play-off tie
India's doubles pair of Rutuja Bhosale and Zeel Desai after winning their match against Daniela Vismane and Patricija Spaka of Latvia in the Billie Jean King Cup play-off tie at Jurmala in Latvia on April 17, 2021.

Tennis: Latvia overpower India 3-1 in Billie Jean King Cup play-off tie

Jurmala (Latvia), April 18, 2021

Anastasija Sevastova showed her superior skills against Ankita Raina to enable Latvia secure an unassailable 3-0 lead over India after the first reverse singles match of the Billie Jean King Cup play-off tie in Jurmala on Saturday.

Hosts Latvia were the clear favourites to gain a qualifying round spot for next year's finals of the competition and Sevastova sealed the tie with a 6-0 7-6(4) win in one hour and 31 minutes.

Sevastova, the world No. 47, certainly put in a shift against Raina (No. 174) and wasted no time in proving that she had what was needed to win this encounter, although she relinquished her grip in the second set and allowed Raina to gain two set points at 5-3.

Raina took a comfort break after the first set and found new confidence after the match looked as if it was going to be a blowout. While Sevastova's concentration wavered a little, Raina managed to lengthen the points and caused her favoured host to commit errors.

The Latvian was mostly solid, rather than brilliant, in her performance and, initially, hardly looked as if she would relinquish her grip on the match, which began with an opening break of serve against her opposing No. 1.

On Friday against Jelena Ostapenko, Raina took full advantage of the Latvian's many errors to keep herself in the match but in this encounter, Sevastova's dip in concentration was temporary, and she managed to show her ability to surmount any manifest danger by increasing her power and accuracy.

Despite racing to a 5-2 lead, there was always a sense that Raina was only permitted to play as well as her opponent would allow.

At the outset, the shorter rallies almost all went in Sevastova's favour, as the Indian was the one making the mistakes, or she was unable to cope with the Latvian's powerful groundstrokes that inevitably found an opening for a winning shot into an open court. But in the second set, with the errors creeping into the home favourite's game, Raina pursued her tactic of battling away from the baseline and let Sevastova make mistakes.

Raina managed to take the set to a tie-break but Sevastova was always marginally ahead and she secured the win for the loss of four points.

"I started the second set badly, perhaps I lost concentration, maybe I was a bit tired. I didn't play that well in the first set either, she gave me a lot of points and when she starts to lead, she plays better and she has nothing to lose and I had to stay with her in the rallies. It's good to have matches with tough situations like these and I managed to get through them," the Latvian No. 1 said.

As appropriate in the days of Covid, with no cheering crowds, the celebrations were muted and Sevastova and her teammates briefly did half a lap of honour around the court.

Sevastova's victory followed her own win on Friday against Karman Kaur Thandi 6-4 6-0 and Ostapenko's drawn out win over Raina 6-2 5-7 7-5.

"It was a solid first set from Anastasija and I knew that I had to play (better) than yesterday and I knew I could do that, and I had some opportunities. I should have been more aggressive to close the (second) set," said Raina.

"In the first set, I felt that she didn't give me any clear points. I was able to do so in the second set as there was nothing to lose. I felt that there would be no free points from her, for sure."

The dead doubles match brought a consolation point for India after Rutuja Bhosale and Zeel Desai defeated Daniela Vismane and Patricija Spaka 6-4 5-7 10-2 to make the final score 3-1.

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