Swedes close off Britain's route to the World Group

 

The attempt by Britain's women to return to the Fed Cup's World Group will have to wait another year after Judy Murray's team lost their promotion play-off away to Sweden yesterday. Given the world rankings of the players involved, Sweden were always marginal favourites to win on home territory in Boras and they secured the victory by winning the first three rubbers of the tie.

Britain last played in the World Group 19 years ago, but four successive victories in Group One of the Europe/Africa Zone earlier this year, coupled with the emergence of Laura Robson and Heather Watson to support Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong, had given reason for hope.

However, the writing was on the wall after both Baltacha and Keothavong lost in straight sets in Saturday's opening singles rubbers. Baltacha went down 6-1, 7-5 to the Swedish No 2 Johanna Larsson, while Keothavong lost 6-1, 6-4 to Sofia Arvidsson.

Murray took the bold decision to replace Baltacha with 18-year-old Robson in the first of yesterday's reverse singles, which Britain had to win to keep the contest alive. The former Wimbledon junior champion pushed Arvidsson hard, but Sweden's top player, who is ranked 67 places higher at No 54 in the world, held on to secure a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 victory and the tie.

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