Fed Cup Tennis: Israel, Ukraine knotted going into final day

Pe'er displays superior mental toughness to pull out tough three-setter over younger Bondarenko sister.

Shahar Peer 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Shahar Peer 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel's Fed Cup team will enter the second and final day of its World Group II first round encounter against Ukraine with everything to play for after Shahar Pe'er defeated Kateryna Bondarenko to tie the score at 1-1 at the end of the first day of play in Kharkov on Saturday. Tzipi Obziler (166 in the world) lost 4-6, 4-6 to Alona Bondarenko (31) in the first match on Saturday, but Pe'er (48) beat Kateryna Bondarenko (50) 6-3, 6-7 (8), 6-3, keeping the tie wide open. "I'm glad I raised my level of play and kept to my game plan, which was to play aggressive and to dominate," Pe'er said. "I hope to continue and play good and positive tennis on Sunday. Alona is a good player and anything can happen. I hope and believe we will take two more points on Sunday." Pe'er faces Alona Bondarenko in the first of Sunday's matches, with Obziler to come up against Kateryna in the second match of the day. The tie will then be completed with a potentially decisive doubles match. Pe'er got Saturday's match off to a good start, winning the first two games, but the younger Bondarenko sister answered back by claiming three straight games to take the lead. With the fate of the first set hanging in the balance, Pe'er raised her level of play, and won four games on the trot. The second set was tight throughout and had to be decided on a tiebreak. The Israeli led 4-2, but Kateryna fought back and tied the match after winning the breaker 8-6. Pe'er crucially claimed the first break of serve in the third set to open a 3-2 lead and never looked back, eventually clinching the match on a Bondarenko double-fault. "A tennis match is decided by momentum and I broke her spirit in the third set," Pe'er said. The first match of the day opened with seven consecutive breaks of serve before Alona Bondarenko finally held a service game on her way to a 6-4 win. Obziler began the second set well, opening a 3-1 advantage, but Bondarenko claimed five of the next six games to complete the victory. "I'm disappointed with my loss, but encouraged by the tight match and by the good tennis I displayed," Obziler said. "I believe I will play even better on Sunday and I will do all I can to claim an important point for Israel." New captain Lior Mor was pleased with the team's performance on Saturday. "All in all this was a successful first day," said Mor, who is guiding the team for the first time since replacing Oded Jacob. "Our team played well. Obziler was close to winning and Pe'er played very well and came through a tight match. We knew the tie would be close and I hope we can end Sunday with one more point than the Ukrainians."