GREAT Britain’s hopes of reaching the World Group of the Fed Cup were dealt a blow with defeat by Turkey.
Britain need to finish top of their group in this week’s Europe/Africa Zone Group I tournament in Budapest and win a play-off tomorrow to make it through to April’s World Group II play-offs.
Judy Murray’s team made the perfect start with a 3-0 victory over Liechtenstein in their opening match but were upset 2-1 by Turkey yesterday.
Both Johanna Konta and Heather Watson were ranked significantly higher than their opponents in the singles but neither could post a win.
Konta lost 6-3, 7-6 (8/6) to teenager Ipek Soylu and British No 1 Watson was unable to save the day for the team as she slipped to a 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 defeat by Cagla Buyukakcay.
Buyukakcay had served notice of her threat on Wednesday by beating Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, the highest-ranked player in the group, and she proved just the stronger in a tight contest.
Doubles pair Jocelyn Rae and Anna Smith ensured Britain did not end the day empty-handed by beating Basak Eraydin and Pemra Ozgen 6-2, 6-1 in the doubles, and it could prove to be a very valuable point.
Britain can still top the group but they must beat Ukraine, the toughest of their opponents on paper, in their final round-robin match today.
Victoria Azarenka made her belated Fed Cup comeback after missing the first day due to luggage being lost containing her kit and rackets. The last time the former world No 1 was seen in the red and green of Belarus was atop the podium at London 2012 with a gold medal draped around her neck after she and Max Mirnyi had beaten the British pair of Andy Murray and Laura Robson in the Olympic mixed doubles final.
Yesterday was a more mundane affair but the two-time Australian Open champion grafted to a 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 victory over the tricky Tsvetana Pironkova as Belarus defeated Bulgaria 3-0 and head into their final Pool C match versus Portugal with two wins from two and a perfect 6-0 record in rubbers.
Elsewhere, on the ATP circuit, fifth-seeded Andreas Seppi of Italy reached his second quarter-final of the season when he beat James Ward of Great Britain 7-5, 6-7 (7/4), 6-3 at the Zagreb Indoors yesterday.
Seppi came back from 2-0 down to win the first set, then blew a 4-2 lead in the second. In the third, Seppi overcame another broken serve to prevail in two hours and 20 minutes.
His eighth win of the year followed a semifinal showing in Doha, and a fourth-round run at the Australian Open, including a win over Roger Federer.
Another enjoying a good start was third-seeded Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain, also into his second quarterfinals this year after defeating Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia 6-1, 6-1 in the second round.
Garcia-Lopez saved five break points, and lined up seventh-seeded Viktor Troicki of Serbia, who eased past Go Soeda of Japan 6-3, 6-1. Troicki won 96 percent of points on his first serve and never faced a break point.
Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania came back from 6-3, and 5-2 down in the second-set tiebreaker to upset fourth-seeded Gilles Muller from Luxembourg 3-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-4. Muller hit 22 aces, but Berankis broke him twice in the deciding set. Berankis faces Seppi next.
Santiago Giraldo crashed out of the Ecuador Open Quito at the first hurdle late on Wednesday as he lost to Albert Montanes in the second round.
Montanes converted three of nine break opportunities for a 7-6 (7/1), 7-5 win over the world No 31, who was the second seed and received a first-round bye.
Montanes will now face Thomaz Belluci who battled past Horacio Zeballos 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6).
Fourth seed Martin Klizan overcame Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 while eighth seed Victor Estrella Burgos dispatched qualifier Renzo Olivo 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.