Japan's 17-year-old Ayumi Morita came to the rescue of Japan by beating Angelique Kerber to draw 1-1 on the first day of the play-off tie against Germany in the Fed Cup tennis yesterday.
Tatjana Malek put Germany one up earlier in the day when she crashed Erika Takao's Fed Cup debut with a solid 6-4, 6-3 victory in the opening rubber.
But Morita, who won the challenger titles at Tokyo and Tokachi last season, came back from behind to beat Angelique Kerber 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, another Fed Cup debutante.
"I'm very happy, just very happy," said Morita, ranked 156th against Kerber's 73rd.
"The atmosphere was completely different from my first Fed Cup in France. There, all the fans were behind France. Today, everyone supported every shot I made. I was happy in every point in every game," she said.
Morita went a break up in the ninth game of the final set and had a match point on her advantage in the following game, only to see Kerber fight back to draw even 5-5.
Morita steadied herself to break Kerber again in the 11th game before taking a commanding 40-30 lead in the 12th game and she made no mistake at her second attempt to finish off the two-hour and 22-minute battle.
"Today's match was very tough from the beginning to the end. I had to play aggressive and break her serve. I had to get to the net but couldn't as often as I would like. The conditions were good for me but still tomorrow I have to play my best," Morita said.
Meanwhile, Kerber said: "She is good from the baseline and she didn't make mistakes. I needed to play my best tennis."
German captain Barbara Rittner praised Morita, saying: "I was impressed by Morita, only 17 years old."
"It is now all open and it's a different day tomorrow. Let's see if Morita can keep up this level and, for sure, we will do our best," Rittner said.
best of five
After two reverse singles today, Rika Fujiwara and Tomoko Yonemura will play Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Andrea Petkovic in the last doubles match in the best of five contest.
The winning team will play in the World Group next year and the losers in the World Group II.
Japan have only one win against Germany in six encounters. The victory came when former world number four Kimiko Date shocked then world number one Steffi Graf in an exciting tie that ended 3-2 in Tokyo in 1996.
Japan lost to France 5-0 in the World Group first round in April, while Germany defeated Croatia 4-1 to earn a berth in the play-off.