| 7.2°C Belfast

Great Britain lose out to Slovakia in Fed Cup qualifier



Heather Watson

Heather Watson

Getty Images for LTA

Heather Watson

Great Britain missed out on a place in the new-look Fed Cup Finals after losing their qualifying tie to Slovakia in Bratislava.

Defeats for Heather Watson and Harriet Dart on Friday had left Anne Keothavong's side needing to produce an unlikely comeback to reach April's 12-team showpiece in Budapest.

Watson kept their hopes alive with a 6-0 7-5 victory over world number 202 Rebecca Sramkova in the first of Saturday's reverse singles, Sramkova having replaced Viktoria Kuzmova after she was ruled out through illness.

However, Dart then lost a hard-fought contest 7-5 6-3 to world number 199 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova to give Slovakia an unassailable 3-1 lead.

Britain now need to win a play-off tie in April to earn another chance to reach the finals in 2021, while a defeat would send them back to the Europe/Africa Zone.

Watson, who reportedly resorted to YouTube to learn about her new opponent, had earlier raced through the first set in just 26 minutes but was given a harder time by Sramkova in the second before sealing a vital win.

Dart's match against Kuzmova had lasted almost three hours and the 23-year-old again gave everything against Schmiedlova, who reached as high as 26th in the world rankings in 2015 before injury halted her progress.

Schmiedlova broke for a 4-2 lead in the opening set and although Dart immediately hit back, another break in the 12th game gave Schmiedlova the set.

The 25-year-old had to save a total of seven break points in the second set as a determined Dart refused to throw in the towel, but a break of serve in the sixth game ultimately proved vital.

Belfast Telegraph