Anett Kontaveit loses in Billie Jean King Cup playoff versus Greece
The Estonian women's tennis team will remain in the same second-tier group in the Billie Jean King Cup tournament series, after losing to Greece in the Europe-Africa zone two play-off match over the weekend.
Estonia had started their games, played in Portugal, strongly, pulling off a clean sweep (two singles matches plus one doubles match) against South Africa, Kosovo and Ireland, and only dropping one game in a win over Lithuania before returning to form by beating Georgia 3:0 as well.
This set them up for the playoff with Greece, whose team were missing world top 10 player Maria Sakkari, out with injury.
However, Elena Malõgina lost her singles match against Valentini Grammatikopoulou in straight sets, 6:2, 6:4, while a loss in the next singles game from former world number two Anett Kontaveit, battling with recovery from an injury, meant that playing the doubles match was too much of a formality, meaning that encounter was scrapped.
Despina Papamichail (WTA 131st) beat Kontaveit, now ranked 69th in the world, also with a 6:2, 6:4 scoreline.
Greece, even without Maria Sakkari, gets promotion to @BJKCup Group 1 after beating Estonia 2-0.— José Morgado (@josemorgado) April 15, 2023
Big 6-2, 6-4 win for Despina Papamichail over Anett Kontaveit! pic.twitter.com/uv1ue4U5mL
Märten Tamla, coach of the Estonian team, noted that the same back injury that had kept Kontaveit out of competition in the first few weeks of 2023 had continued to niggle her.
"It was definitely disappointing that we lost to Greece, but that's the nature of the game," Tamla said. "This is a very protracted, and physically and mentally tough competitive format. I would say that overall, the women's team was relatively strong. We won several games after coming back from a deficit. and all five team members were able to play. I would rate the Estonian women's team a 4+ [out of 5] this year, in other words, good."
Specialist Mihkel Mard had said Kontaveit's injuries; degenerative changes in the lumbar discs in the spine, exacerbated by an irritation to the left thigh adductor muscles, are of such a nature that she will never be completely free from them for the rest of her competitive career, adding that they can, however, be managed, with the use of the correct training exercises and therapy.
Estonia's team consisted of Maileen Nuudi, Laura Rahnel and Ingrid Neel, in addition to Kontaveit. Neel is an Estonian-American who only recently qualified to play for her ancestral home country.
The Billie Jean King Cup was formerly known as the Fed Cup, and is the women's equivalent of the men's Davis Cup.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Kristjan Kallaste