Dellacqua squares Aust’s Fed Cup playoff

Casey Dellacqua saved Australia from an opening-day humiliation in their Fed Cup World Group playoff against the Netherlands on Saturday with a gritty win over Arantxa Rus.

The crucial 7-5 6-3 win levelled the tie at one rubber apiece, after Jarmila Gajdosova’s surprise defeat to Dutch No.1 Kiki Bertens.

On what shaped as a horror day for the Australians in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, top-ranked Sam Stosur was a game-day withdrawal as she battles an Achilles complaint.

Her absence, combined with Gajdosova’s 6-1 6-3 thrashing at the hands of 86th-ranked Bertens, caused early headaches for Australia captain Alicia Molik.

But Dellacqua’s levelling victory over the world No.217 restored Australia’s favouritism to win their way back into the elite World Group ahead of the doubles and reverse singles on Sunday.

Rus, who has not played in the main draw of a WTA Tour event this year, provided more fight than expected, coming from 5-1 down in the first set as Dellacqua’s powerful groundstrokes turned into ugly mis-hits.

The 30-year-old Dellacqua recovered to close out the first set and breezed through the second to save Australia’s blushes.

Earlier, an out-of-sorts Gajdosova looked frustrated as she folded meekly, broken three times in losing six consecutive games to concede the first set.

The writing appeared to be on the wall for the 27-year-old when she was broken early in second, with Bertens taking a 3-1 advantage to the delight of the home crowd.

World No.48 Gajdosova broke straight back but was forced to work hard, having five break points saved before finally converting.

The break appeared to give her a boost but, crucially, she was unable to take advantage of the break points which fell her way.

With her confidence wilting, Gajdosova surrendered another break, allowing Bertens to serve out the match.

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