QUEBEC - A pair of losses in singles play has Canada down 2-0 in its first-round tie against the Czech Republic in the Fed Cup's world group stage.
Montreal's Francoise Abanda lost the first rubber of the tie 6-2, 6-4 to Karolina Pliskova on Saturday, while Ottawa's Gabriela Dabrowski fell 6-1, 6-2 to Tereza Smitkova.
The 18-year-old Abanda played well in her Fed Cup debut, but she was overmatched against world No. 22 Pliskova. She had an opportunity to tie the second set 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 saved the 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 230th in the world. "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 both sets by breaking Smitkova in her opening service games. But she 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, Smitkova 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 advance into the semifinals. A loss would require Canada to participate in a World Group playoff in April for the right to keep their spot in the World Group for next year. Canada is competing in the eight-team World Group for the first time in its history while defending champion Czech Republic is aiming to make its seventh-consecutive semifinal.
Play resumes Sunday 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 Toronto's Sharon Fichman 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.