Yasir Al Memon/EPA/Landov
Ping Fu and Tsvetana Pironkova volleyed away a steamy Indian summer as Uzbekistan and Bulgaria claimed their first Fed Cup ties with straightforward 3-0 wins over Indonesia and Kazakhstan respectively.
Former world number eight Peng Shuai gave Chinese number one Shuai Ying-Ying a winning start to her captain’s reign by seeing off her fellow German, Angelique Kerber, in straight sets in the second of the reverse singles.
“We have to play as a team and to win, we need to play together,” said the upbeat Peng.
“I am very happy to win today’s match. I am only 5.46 but I think it worked.”
Later, Kristina Mladenovic beat fellow Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia 6-1 6-4 to give the hosts the 2-0 lead and ensure the 2,500 strong capacity crowd at Viceroy Hotel would have enough to eat.
Ninth seed Vania King claimed her fourth Fed Cup doubles title by beating Victoria Azarenka 6-2 6-2 in an earlier final.
Azarenka was competing for the first time since the Australian Open following a leg injury.
“I definitely did not play my best tennis today, but I just tried to focus on every ball and do my best,” she said.
“I’m really happy to be here and satisfied to have won the first point of the tie. I’m looking forward to playing in the reverse singles tomorrow.”
The final scoreline also reflected the four-hour marathon over two days between India and Pakistan, which India won in straight sets.
In a wide-open Group 2, Switzerland edged their battle with Sweden 2-1 with Italian world number 72 Sara Errani and Sara Errani storming to a 6-1 6-3 win over Johanna Larsson and Roberta Vinci.
Indian number one Rohan Bopanna and Serbia’s world number 73 Ilija Bozoljac completed the win with a 7-6 (7/5) 3-6 6-2 victory over Mikhail Youzhny and Viktor Troicki, to take the Swiss top spot on the list of European nations participating in Fed Cup matches.
“It was the first time I was in conditions as such. I think it was really difficult for the indoor court, but because it’s still cold outside, we could control the ball pretty well,” said Youzhny.
“(The first match) was much better than we expected. Not too cold, but much better than the first one. In this match we tried to use our height and our fitness.
“There was time to get used to the conditions and we got better as the match went on. Both teams played with more intensity and I think the doubles today was much more important.”
The grass court tie was played at the Bislett Open, the regular clay court season’s fourth major.
“It was the first time I have been here and we actually didn’t have any grass courts because we had to play with clay. I think it’s the first match of the season and I’m very happy to have won it,” said Bopanna.
“Both the matches were really physical. It was cold and humid. I think we did very well.
“Today, we had a lot of chances in the first match. In the second, we were on top, but I think the second match was a bit more demanding. It was much, much tougher and both teams showed a lot of courage in the end.”
The second round of the competition is set to be played April 8 to 10, with the semi-finals set for April 15 to 17, followed by the final April 22 to 24 in Budapest.
The winner will receive a berth in the 2018 World Group, next year.