Canada was missing world No. 7 ranked Eugenie Bouchard who chose not to play after reaching the quarter-finals at the Australian Open. The Czech Republic played without its two highest ranked players, No. 4 Petra Kvitkova and Lucie Safarova, ranked No. 15 in the world.
Competing in her first-ever Fed Cup tie, 18-year-old Abanda comported herself well in her debut, competing strongly though she was over-matched against world No. 22 Pliskova. She had an opportunity to tie the second set up at 5-5, earning her first break point of the match in the final game as Pliskova attempted to serve out the win. But Pliskova exhibited her impressive power game by saving break point with an ace. In total, the No. 1 Czech hit nine aces and 24 winners in the 72-minute match.
“It was definitely a new experience for me,” said Abanda, currently ranked No. 230. “It’s a different vibe on the court that I’m not very used to right now. It was a little bit difficult ... I think it was a good match. It just felt a little bit different though and I couldn’t really find my rhythm in the match. I was a little uptight and not letting go on shots.”
In the second match, Dabrowski started on a positive note in both sets by breaking Smitkova in her opening service games. But Dabrowski was unable to hold on, as the world No. 62 roared back by reeling off six straight games in both the first and second sets. Though many of the games were close, it was Smitkova who maintained control throughout the match.
“I tried my best on every single point,” No. 185-ranked Dabrowski said. “I felt I was really well prepared to play but I wasn’t able to impose the kind of game style I wanted to. I felt she was handling the things I was throwing at her pretty well. I think it was closer than what the score sheet said.”
Canada will now need to sweep all three matches on Sunday in order to triumph and advance into the semifinals. A loss would require team Canada to participate in a World Group play-off in April for the right to keep their spot in the World Group for next year. Canada is competing in the eight-team upper echelon of Fed Cup for the first time in its history while defending champion Czech Republic is aiming to make its seventh consecutive semifinal.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Canadian Fed Cup team captain Sylvain Bruneau. “I have a lot of respect for the Czech team but I also thought that our players would give them more of a battle. We’ll have to turn this around tomorrow.”
Play will resume on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET with the third singles match scheduled to pit Dabrowski against Pliskova. The fourth singles rubber will see Abanda take on Smitkova followed by the doubles featuring Sharon Fichman (Toronto) and Dabrowski versus Lucie Hradecka and Denisa Allertova. The team captains have until one hour before the match to change their nominations. All matches will be best-of-three sets.