Photo: Susan MullaneDarya Kasatkina (RUS)
The Top 4 seeds all got off to good starts on the opening day of the Junior Fed Cup Finals by BNP Paribas which is being held in San Luis Potosi, Mexico this week.
USA and Hungary, seeded 3 and 4 respectively, both strolled to comfortable 3-0 victories over Slovenia and New Zealand. USA’s group is based in the wonderful Club Libanes Potosino and their play very much matched the beautiful surroundings. Michaela Gordon, who has already enjoyed success in ITF team competitions this year having been crowned champion at the 14-and-under World Junior Tennis Finals in August, led the American team out with a 62 60 victory over Slovenia’s Manca Pislak.
Katerina Stewart, USA’s No. 1 player, sealed victory in the tie when she defeated Nina Potocnik 63 16 76(1), giving USA an insurmountable 2-0 lead. In the round-robin group stage, every rubber counts and can make all the difference later on in the week, so there was still all to play for in the doubles. Unfortunately for Slovenia, with the doubles rubber tied at 1-1 in the first set, Manca Pislak was forced to retire, handing USA a 3-0 win.
Hungary, based at the La Loma Centro Deportivo, comfortably saw off the challenge from New Zealand, also winning 3-0. New Zealand are missing their No. 2 player due to illness and Hungary capitalised with Fanni Stollar taking the first rubber 61 62 over Ella Hassall. Hungary’s No.1, Anna Bondar, was just as clinical when she defeated Rosie Cheng 62 63. All four singles players were involved in the doubles and it came as no surprise when Hungary emerged as 61 62 victors.
Russia, the top seeds in the girls’ event, seemed to be heading the same way as USA and Hungary when Veronika Kudermetova defeated Korean Yu Jin Ahn 61 61. That gave Daria Kasatkina, one of the best players at this year’s Finals with a combined ranking of No. 5, the chance to seal a Russian victory when she took on Dabin Kim.
Kim was not going to simply roll over, however, and produced a scintillating performance to defeat Kasatkina 63 64 and level the tie at 1-1. That meant there was all to play for in the doubles when Kasatkina and Aleksandra Pospelova took on Suyeon Choi and Kim.
The first set was a tense affair. With nothing to separate the teams, the set was forced into a tiebreak. It was still level at 6-6 when Russia made the crucial breakthrough. They moved 7-6 up before taking the set 8-6. That proved to be a body blow for the Koreans and a fired up Kasatkina lead the Russians to a 60 second set victory to take the tie 2-1.
Australia, the second seeds at this year’s Finals, also came through a tough tie 2-1 against Slovak Republic. Both of the singles matches were close and proved to be fantastic spectacles. Slovak Republic’s Tereza Mihalikova took on Australian Naiktha Bains in the opening rubber and, after splitting the first two sets, it was Mihalikova who won the deciding set for a 62 46 62 victory and a 1-0 lead in the tie.
That meant that Australia’s No. 1, Sara Tomic, younger sister of current ATP world No. 50 Bernard Tomic, knew that she would have to win to keep Australia in the tie. She would have been buoyed when she found out she would not be playing Slovak Republic’s No. 1, Kristina Schmiedlova, but knew she would still have a tough match against Katarina Stresnakova.
She got off to a good start, taking the first set 61, but Stresnakova fought back in the second set, running into a 4-1 lead. Tomic battled her way back into the set but could not do enough to prevent the Slovak taking it 64. Tomic proved too strong for her opponent in the final set and edged it 64 to force the tie into a deciding doubles. Bains teamed up with Priscilla Hon to take on Mihalikova and Kristina Schmiedlova and cruised to a 61 61 victory to take the tie 2-1.
Elsewhere, Brazil defeated debutants Namibia 2-1, hosts Mexico produced an excellent performance to defeat fifth seeds Czech Republic 2-1, France easily overcame Colombia 3-0 and Bolivia won an exciting deciding doubles rubber to defeat Egypt 2-1.
Wednesday’s ties see the victorious teams from today take on today’s losing teams, which means the line-up is as follows:
Russia  v Czech Republic 
Mexico v Korea, Rep.
Hungary  v Egypt 
Bolivia v New Zealand
USA  v Colombia
France  v Slovenia
Australia  v Namibia
Brazil  v Slovak Republic