United Cup: Vekic holds off Carle as Croatia leads Argentina 2-0

But 22-year-old Carle got her teeth into the contest to make the second set a highly entertaining affair.
Donna Vekic
Donna VekicIANS

PERTH: Donna Vekic defeated Maria Lourdes Carle 6-0, 6-4, while Borna Coric needed more than two hours to beat Francisco Cerundolo to give Croatia a 2-0 lead over Argentina at the United Cup, here on Saturday.

A one-sided opener saw the former WTA No.19 overpower Carle. Vekic played aggressive tennis while committing only one unforced error, teeing off on each of her opponent's second serves and conceding a meagre five points overall.

But 22-year-old Carle got her teeth into the contest to make the second set a highly entertaining affair. The WTA No.147 began using her slice to blunt Vekic's power, and canny use of that shot also set up a stellar pass to break for 3-2.

However, a pivotal sixth game saw Carle miss triple-game point -- the third when a dead net cord went against her -- to consolidate her break. Scrambling through a drop-shot exchange, Vekic captured the best point of the match en route to levelling at 3-3.

The level remained high through the remainder of the set, with the drop-shot continuing to play a significant role for both players. In the end, the final game was decided by the finest of margins.

Serving to stay in the match, Carle squandered two game points -- the first with a double fault, and the second when a putative forehand winner went wide by millimetres.

Seizing her opportunity, Vekic nailed a forehand volley on the line to reach match point, and she converted in the same manner as she had the first set with a clean forehand return winner, her 21st of the match, wrapping up the victory in 70 minutes.

Following Vekic on RAC Arena was her teammate Coric, who came through an equally tough 7-5, 6-4 battle against Francisco Cerundolo to open up a 2-0 lead for Croatia.

A battle between two powerful ball-strikers was ultimately decided by Coric's ability to hold firm against some precise Cerundolo returning. Coric saved eight of the 10 break points he faced in the 2-hour, 9-minute encounter.

The No. 26-ranked Coric trailed 3-1 in the second set as Cerundolo raised his level to raise the possibility of a deciding set. Coric credited his Team Croatia captain, former Roland Garros champion Iva Majoli, with instigating the turnaround.

"Absolutely, she was the one telling me I need to go more for the balls because I was just playing from the back of the court. I just couldn't find my rhythm in the second set, but our captain and my coach told me that I needed to step up. It's lucky that I listened to them," Coric said in his on-court interview.

Croatia can clinch the tie Sunday when Petra Martic takes on Argentine's Nadia Podoroska in Perth. Borna Gojo then faces Federico Coria. If Argentina wins both matches, a mixed doubles encounter will decide the winner.

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