Photo: ITFAustria's women's team
Switzerland and Italy reached the men’s final play-off and France and Austria reached the women’s final play-off on the penultimate day of the BNP Paribas World Team Cup Pre-qualification Event for Europe in Antalya, Turkey, on Saturday after all four teams posted 3-0 victories over their semifinal opponents.
Switzerland’s semifinal against Greece opened with the closest of all the singles rubbers on the fourth day of play as Yann Avanthey was taken to a deciding set tie-break by Stefanos Diamandis, but the Swiss No. 2 eventually held on to edge to 64 46 76(4) victory.
Thereafter, Daniel Pellegrina had a much more straight forward task to secured Switerland’s place in the final when he beat Giorgos Lazaridis 62 63 and Herbert Keller and Thomas von Daeniken sealed the doubles against Diamandis and Lazaridis 63 63.
Italy won all three of the rubbers in their semifinal against host nation Turkey in straight sets, Luca Spano beating Muharrem Cakmak 62 61 and Fabian Mazzei easing to a 60 61 win over Turan Akalin, before Spano and Mazzei clinched the doubles against Akalin an Cakmak 60 63.
Italy have played in World Group 2 in the World Team Cup twice in the last seven years, with a period in World Group 1 in the intervening time, while Switzerland have finished between third and ninth in World Group two in each of the seven years they have played in World Group 2, since their relegation from World Group 1 in 2004.
Sunday’s play-off final to decide which nation gains direct qualification to World Group 2 this year should provide a fascinating prospect, with Italy’s world No. 26 Fabian Mazzei being the highest ranked player in the final, but three of Switzerland’s players having top 100 rankings.
Of the day’s seven ties on the order of play, the only one to go to the final set of a deciding doubles rubber was Denmark’s contest against Lithuania to decide which team would challenge Croatia for seventh place in the qualifying event. Ultimately Christian Illum and Christof Holmer edged out Aleksandr Olechnovic and Jan Vysockij 36 64 (10-8) and Denmark will meet Croatia in one of Sunday’s play-offs for minor positions.
Former World Team Cup runners-up Austria and France to meet in women’s play-off
Austria and France both have solid World Team Cup pedigrees in the women’s event, Austria having been runners-up back in 1994, while France have reached the overall women’s final five times. But, with Austria having missed the last two renewals and France having not fielded a team since back-to-back finals in 2007 and 2008 the two nations will go head-to-head on Sunday for the one qualification spot available for the Women’s World Group this year.
Margit Fink opened Austria’s 3-0 semifinal victory over Russia with a 62 61 win against Veronika Zvik, while Henriett Koosz defeated Inna Mashkovski 60 61 to give Austria an unassailable lead before Koosz and Waltraud Posch took the doubles 62 63.
In the other semifinal France’s Evelyne Claverie fended off a determined challenge from Turkey’s Ebru Bulgurcu to prevail 64 63 and that proved the catalyst to what turned out to be a comfortable victory as French No. 1 Christine Schoenn went on to beat Busra Un 60 61 before partnering Emilie Chene to a 60 60 win in the doubles.
With world No. 14 Schoenn and world No. 24 Koosz leading their respective nations, another enthralling final could be in store.