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Netherlands complete stunning win over Russia
7th February, 2016

MOSCOW -- Kiki Bertens defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets in the opening reverse singles rubber in Moscow to send Netherlands through to the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas semifinals for the first time since 1997.

"This is unbelievable. I don't think anyone expected that we could win this tie, perhaps we even didn't. It's an unbelievable feeling," said a delighted Bertens after the match.

It was always going to be a tall order for the 30-year-old St. Petersburg native who had played a marathon four-hour encounter against Richel Hogenkamp in Saturday's opening singles.

Kiki Bertens Kiki Bertens
Just over 12 hours later, the Russian would take to the court again and Berten's tactics were clear for all to see. The World No. 106 took every opportunity to move her opponent round the court with Kuznetsova understandably looking weary.

"Normally that is my game, but sometimes I make a few more mistakes, but I think I was playing good and aggressive and was using my forehand well and trying to move her around. I also had in my mind that yesterday she played a four hour match, so even if this was to go into a third [set] I would still be feeling good," Bertens added.

The Russian was trying to keep the points short and inadvisably tried to attempt a number of drop shots from the baseline. Unfortunately for her, the tactic failed to come off. Kuznetsova admitted she did not feel too tired despite Saturday's marathon match, but mentioned that luck was not on her country's side over the weekend.

"I was also ready to play long rallies, but the thing is that throughout this whole tie, everything was going to the side of Holland because everything - line calls, net cords, drop shots - everything was going perfectly for them. I was unable to play my best, but I gave one hundred percent out on the court," Kuznetsova said.

Bertens managed to get a break in the fourth game and never looked back. Her serve was excellent and Kuznetsova was unable to make any inroads. A second break in the sixth game made the first set all but a formality and Bertens would take it after Kuznetsova sent another attempted drop shot from the baseline into the net.

The Russian seemed to pick up her game in the second set and started to pose a few more questions for her Dutch opponent to answer. However, Bertens picked up a crucial break in the seventh game and sealed victory on her second match point, as Kuznetsova netted a forehand from the back of the court.

The 24-year-old is now an incredible 13 wins and one loss in Fed Cup singles matches - but agreed that this was by far the biggest Fed Cup win of her career.

"We are now among the last four countries in the Fed Cup, so it's just unbelievable," said Bertens. "We perhaps don't realise it yet. We have a few more months to realise it, and in April we are going to fight again for a place in the final."

Paul Haarhuis' team have now extended their Fed Cup winning streak to eight consecutive ties, a remarkable achievement for a team that does not have a single player currently ranked inside the Top 100.

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Double Dutch delight on record day in Moscow
6th February, 2016

MOSCOW -- A stunning victory by Richel Hogenkamp in exactly four hours has put the Netherlands into a shock 2-0 lead against Russia in their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first round tie in Moscow.

The world No. 141 overcame Svetlana Kuznetsova 76 57 108 to set the record for the longest ever Fed Cup rubber, beating the previous best set in 2005, when Vilmarie Castellvi of Puerto Rico beat Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada in three hours and 49 minutes.

"It was an unbelievable match for me. I feel very good and I am very happy with this win," an exhausted but jubilant Hogenkamp said after the match.

On the eve of the Netherlands tie with Russia, the Dutch captain Paul Haarhuis said his country would need "a miracle" to beat Russia. The miracle is yet to happen after the opening singles, but there are certainly signs that his side could come away with victory from the Russian capital.

Both Kiki Bertens and Hogenkamp produced the matches of their Fed Cup careers to leave Russia with a mountain to climb in Sunday's reverse singles and doubles match-ups.

Svetlana Kuznetsova Svetlana Kuznetsova
While Bertens managed to defeat world No. 31 Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets, things were not as straight forward for Hogenkamp who needed exactly four hours to overcome Kuznetsova in a titanic three-set struggle.

Despite being ranked 124 places behind No. 17 Kuznetsova, Hogenkamp made a good start against the two-time Grand Slam winner in front of a packed Olympic Stadium in Moscow.

Both players managed to lose their serve on three occasions in the first set, but it was the 23-year-old from Doetinchem who managed to show the greater consistency. That consistency was to prove crucial, as she would emerge victorious in the first set after taking the tiebreak, as her forehand down the line just crept in.

It looked as though the 30-year-old from St. Petersburg had finally turned things around as she raced to take the first three games.

However, once again her opponent showed her tenaciousness to find a way back into the game. It seemed after she managed to survive a mammoth 10th game to stay on serve that she would go on to take the set, but Kuznetsova had other ideas, breaking her Dutch opponent in the 12th game to level up the match.

An early break in the third set gave Hogenkamp the initiative; while she managed to hold serve whilst come under significant pressure in the sixth game. However, with the Dutchwoman serving for the match, Kuznetsova upped her game to break back at 5-5.

Kuznetsova had a match point opportunity at 7-6, but was unable to convert her chance. Instead it was the 23-year-old Hogenkamp who showed unbelievable stamina to claim victory as Kuznetsova could only send a backhand into the net.

Hogenkamp said that "adrenaline" kept her going through the draining encounter, while she described the win as "the best in my career."

"Against these players who are higher in the rankings, you do not get so many chances. If you get a chance, you have to take it," said Hogenkamp. "It was tough for me as of course there were some things that were running through my mind when you get to 5-5 and you get some chances to win the match, but I was just trying to stay in the match and focus on what I had to do, and the most important thing is I believed I could win," she added.

Earlier the Netherlands No. 1 Bertens managed to overcome a disjointed Makarova in straight sets.

Bertens, who has now won 12 out of 13 Fed Cup singles matches in her career, said she was just looking to try and stay in the rallies for as long as possible and wait for her opponent to make the mistake.

Her tactics paid off as Makarova became increasingly frustrated at the crucial points in the match, as the Dutch No. 1 was able to capitalise, in what she described as one of her best wins in her Fed Cup career.

"I think at the important points, I was just really focused. I was serving really good and I think that this was the key for this match," said Bertens.

Meanwhile Makarova who missed the latter part of 2015 with a heel problem, was full of praise for her opponent, confessing that she "deserved to win."

"Normally its my tactic to try and stay in the rally is the key to my game, but today perhaps I was not that aggressive as I should have been. Sometimes I played too short and Kiki was a little bit more into the court."

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Makarova up first for Russia in Moscow
5th February, 2016

MOSCOW -- Maria Sharapova will sit out Russia's opening singles match-ups in their Fed Cup by BNP Paribas first round tie with the Netherlands in Moscow. The world No. 6 seemed in good spirits, but captain Anastasia Myskina mentioned that she did not want to risk the Russian.

"We were hoping Maria would feel well, but her shoulder was not really ready to play singles, so that's why we decided not to put her in the singles," said Russia's Fed Cup captain.

However, the 28-year-old played down her injury problems although she did mention that she injured her forearm in Brisbane and would be "taking things easy until Indian Wells".

Ekaterina Makarova Ekaterina Makarova
Given the hosts' strength in depth, they can still call on Svetlana Kuznetsova, who is ranked No. 17 in the world and Ekaterina Makarova, the world No. 31, for the tie and both will play in the opening singles.

The Dutch in contrast are making their first appearance in the World Group since 1998 after they overcame Australia to return to tennis's elite.

"I think it is really special and it was such a long time since we have been in the World Group and now we have won seven matches in a row. I think it has been a great team effort and we are feeling good in Fed Cup," said Kiki Bertens, the world No. 106.

The Netherlands may not have a player in the world's top 100, but they have a great team spirit. Captain Paul Haarhuis has yet to taste defeat at the helm of the Dutch Fed Cup team, however the 49-year-old accepts this will be his toughest task yet.

"They are very strong and it is obviously going to be a very difficult task. Our players are not that experienced at playing at this level all the time, but I think that you always have a chance and we are just going to make sure that we can compete," Haarhuis mentioned.

First up on court will be Makarova, who will be up against Bertens. The pair have never met, while the Russian is feeling her way back into form after not playing for the rest of 2015 after the US Open.

"I have not seen a lot of her and how she is playing, but she is a good player and has played well in a lot of tournaments. She is a tough opponent and I am really looking forward [to the match], said Makarova.

Richel Hogenkamp, who has never lost indoors in singles in Fed Cup, will face potentially one of the toughest Fed Cup matches in her career against Kuznetsova, with 124 places separating the two in the rankings.

Despite an early exit from the Australian Open, the Russian has been in good form in 2016, as the world No. 17 won the Sydney Open.

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