Keys displays a powerful and confident tennis to frustrate the maiden Fed Cup rubber of Gavrilova, whereas McHale wins a dramatic rubber against Stosur
Fed Cup play-off, day 1: Australia USA 0-2
From Brisbane Robbie Cappuccio
For sure not the result people (OK at least I) were expecting at the end of day one in Brisbane, and USA one step from victory.
Sunny, humid and 25C in Brisbane today, worth a couple of hours of plane trip from a rainy Melbourne. Sunny, but the Pat Rafter Arena (crowded with kids) is actually permanently covered with a plexiglass roof and artificial lights are on; “It’s an indoor-outdoor clay court, more indoor than outdoor, but not as fast” says Madison Keys in the after match press conference. Yes, because for the event the Pat Rafter Arena has been resurfaced with clay to give Stosur (semi-finalist in 2012 and a finalist in 2010 at the French Open) and Gavrilova (quarterfinal in Rome last year) an edge. The odds were in Keys’ favour and she did deliver, displaying a great condition and an arm that is ultimate power, whereas Gavrilova was a little bit too tense in her maiden rubber wearing green-and-gold. The result of the second single though was surprising, with Christina McHale winning over Sam Stosur, after trailing 1 set down.
Madison Keys (USA) d. Daria Gavrilova (AUS) 6-4 6-2
The stats describe pretty well the match: 28 winners for Keys, 4 for Gavrilova. I could stop here, but the match has been a little bit more than that.
USA wins the toss and elects to receive. Both players are tense at the beginning, with Keys hitting her forehand a couple of meters long or in the net, whilst Gavrilova – at her maiden tie in Fed Cup – playing spider/windshield wiper, running from one side of the baseline to the other spinning her web often with lobs to deter Keys’ violent hitting. And here comes the notorious 7th game with Dasha facing two break points: she double faults (talking about butterflies …) and USA takes the lead and consolidates despite Keys having to save two break points herself. Keys alternates excellent moments where she takes control of the rally, especially with the inside-out forehand to a series of unforced errors, and I mean hitting the base of the net or going 2 meters long. Regardless of her unforced errors (which we must say are helped by Gavrilova’s intelligent strategy), her stroke is more something like a surface to surface missile: the violence with which she hits the ball is intimidating, to say the least. It’s 5-4 Keys who is on serve: Gavrilova helps her putting in the net an easy backhand volley, and the following inside-out forehand winner gives Keys two set points. Another winner (a total of 14 for her in the first set), initially called out but promptly corrected by the chair umpire gives USA the first set: 6-4.
In the second set Keys grows in intensity, whilst Gavrilova uses more a more the lob, being pushed meters outside the baseline. “I adjusted a little bit to her game in the second set, hitting high balls too often and not being aggressive enough” admits Gavrilova in the press conference. The key of the set comes early in the third game, with Gavrilova facing two consecutive break points and sending in the net an overhead from no more than one meter to the net. On 3-1 Keys, Gavrilova is again under pressure facing 3 consecutive break points, but shows her fighting spirit and holds. From that moment on though it’s a monologue by Keys hitting winner after winner: her returns to the Australian serve are as fast as deep, her inside out forehand is lethal. And with an inside out forehand, which forces Gavrilova to hit the net with her backhand, Keys takes the second set and the rubber in just over an hour and a quarter: 6-4 6-2.
The gap today was too big, in terms of ball speed both in serve (170km/h for Keys with top of 194, 149km/h for Gavrilova who then had to face Keys’ return, twice as fast) and groundstrokes. Keys displayed great confidence which is now further boosted and puts her in a great mental position tomorrow against Stosur. “Tomorrow is another day” concludes a very disappointed Gavrilova, who was though able to smile during the press conference. “It’s a team competition, we win as a team and lose as a team. McHale plays similar to me and I defeated her last year in Rome“.
Christina McHale (USA) d. Sam Stosur (AUS) 3-6 6-1 7-5
Hopes to level the tie by Australia are on Sam Stosur. Ha, what’s in the mindset! What huge role the mindset played in Sam Stosur’s career?!? A chess game between the two players who play similar from a tactical point of view: long rallies, a forehand full of top spin (especially Stosur’s), often inside-out, and alternating a sliced backhand to a flat one. The first set is actually good tennis, with good court coverage by both players. Stosur’s class and experience prevail and Sam is up 5-2 and set point. Then something slowly happens and she turns into the one who is one step from victory and then gives up. McHale saves the set point to hold serve and then other three set points on Stosur’s serve. The Aussie eventually takes the set with a sort of half volley from the baseline, but foreboding signs are all there. And there you have the momentum swing: Stosur appears confused, cannot hit a ball, and makes an unforced error after the other. On 3-0 McHale, Stosur send two balls to the roof, and two to the stands, then losing the next game to love. The set ends 6-1 in less than half an hour and Stosur is so stunned that starts the third set by walking to the wrong end, realising it when she finds herself on the baseline, next to McHale!! The Aussie has to immediately face two break points, but manages to survive and refocus. The match goes back to what it was in the first set, but McHale is much more solid than before. Long rallies, great intensity and nice shots, e.g. a backhand stop volley by McHale which brings her to 2 all. Stosur is confident again, but the unforced errors (a total of 44 in the match for Stosur, against 33 for McHale) still exceed the winners (27 for the Australian, 34 for the American). The seventh game is dramatic, to say the least: 15-30 and then ace by Stosur, followed by a backhand winner by McHale and first break point. Stosur saves and then misses an easy backhand passing shot giving the second break point, which she saves in a long rally which resembles an arm wrestling fight. And so on for a total of 6 break points, which Stosur saves to then hold serve: the Pat Rafter Arena explodes in cheering and chanting for the 4-3 Australia. It’s a big momentum swing, but Stosur cannot exploit the moment. Or maybe it’s McHale who does not look too bothered. “I just tried to refocus and do not think back but forward” said McHale at the press conference. Oh boy, if she refocuses! Straight back to 4 all and then 5 all. Stosur serves so and so and two unforced errors give the game and the edge to the American. It’s a big blow and Stosur is now very tense: during the change of ends she smashes the water bottle to the ground and the patting on the leg by captain Alicia Molik does not do much. McHale has got the one occasion and does not let it slip, grabbing it quickly: 7-5.
At the press conference, Mary Joe Fernández, US captain, cannot hide her joy for the victories and the choice of McHale on Vanderweghe for the singles.”So far, so good” she says “we evaluated how the players were on the surface, how they were practicing, how they were feeling and then we took the decision” a winning decision indeed. “Now it’s an enormeous task for us” Alicia Molik realistically comments.
Great Britain To Play Billie Jean King Cup Finals After Glasgow Picked As Host Nation
The UK will stage the finale of the women’s biggest team tennis event for the first time in over 30 years.
The International Tennis Federation has selected Glasgow as the host nation of this year’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals following a successful bid from the British LTA.
A total of 12 nations will participate in the six-day event which will be held between November 8-13 at the Emirates Arena. A facility originally built for the 2014 Commonwealth Games that has since staged various events, including Davis Cup ties. It has a seating capacity of roughly just over 8000 people. This year’s finals will be held on indoor hardcourts.
It is only the fourth time Britain has staged the finals of the tournament which was previously known as the Fed Cup. It was previously held in London 1963, Eastbourne 1977 and Nottingham 1991.
“We are delighted to be bringing the 2022 Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas Finals to Glasgow. The LTA presented a very impressive bid as part of a competitive hosting process. They have successfully hosted Davis Cup ties in Glasgow, and we look forward to having the women’s World Cup of Tennis take place in front of passionate tennis fans from around the world in an electric atmosphere, at the culmination of the women’s tennis season.” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement.
Great Britain automatically qualifies for the final as they are the hosts. They will be joined by Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Italy, Kazakhstan, Poland, Spain, Slovakia, Switzerland and USA. The format of the round-robin event will see the teams split into four groups of three. The will of each group will then progress to the knockout stages.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to build the profile of women’s tennis and focus attention on women’s sport. The entire team are very excited about playing in front of a home crowd and hearing some loud support across the whole week.” British captain Anne Keothavong commented.
The Russian Tennis Federation won the tournament last year but they will not be allowed to participate this year. Russian and Belarussian teams have been suspended from taking part in ITF team events as the result of the Ukraine war. Russia launched a ‘special military’ operation on February 24th and Belarus is suspected of supporting them.
The draw for the Billie Jean King Cup finals will take place at a later date.
Emma Raducanu Believes Clay Could Be ‘One Of Her Strongest’ Surfaces
The world No.12 is yet to play a Tour event on the clay but she has high hopes for the future.
US Open champion Emma Raducanu may still be relatively new to the WTA Tour but she believes the upcoming clay swing could help provide her with the foundations to shine on the surface.
Raducanu, who made her WTA debut last June, is yet to play a Tour event on the clay. In fact, she has never played a senior event of any kind on the surface. However, during her junior event she played in nine clay tournaments between 2016-2018, including the 2018 girls French Open where she lost in the second round to Denmark’s Clara Tauson.
Despite her lack of experience, the Brit remains confident that she will be able to thrive on the surface. Speaking to reporters ahead of her country’s Billie Jean Cup tie with the Czech Republic, which will take place on clay, Raducanu believes her love for sliding on the court will help her in the coming years.
“I feel this could be one of my strongest surfaces going forward but of course it’s early days right now,” she said.
“I feel like I have got a lot more potential physically. And I do enjoy sliding. So, after spending more time on this surface, I’m sure I’ll time it better and learn more about the surface but also just the time that the clay brings. I feel like I can really use it and play aggressive.”
Since her breakthrough run at the US Open last September, Raducanu has struggled to maintain her form with a series of disappointing results. So far this season the rising star has managed to win just two out of seven matches played. Four out of her five losses were to players ranked outside the world’s top 50.
Part of the problem for the 19-year-old has been her own body. She has suffered from a hip injury which forced her to retire from a match in Mexico earlier this year and has also been hindered by blisters. Furthermore, Raducanu revealed that she has also lost all of her toenails. Prompting British team captain Anne Keothavong to joke that everybody is ‘a little bit scared’ by her toes.
“I have no toenails,” Raducanu stated.
“It was just my foot, my shoes, they’ve just been sliding around a lot [in the shoe].
“I had a small niggle in Miami but now I have no physical thing.”
Raducanu will be hoping to lead her country to victory in their Billie Jean King Cup tie which will be held in Prague. It will be the first time she has ever played in the event.
“I love playing as a team, especially the team we’ve got here,” she said.
“I feel like everyone has been a lot of fun and there’s been a great connection off court, whether that’s playing murder mystery games or cornhole, we’re definitely bonding and gelling very well.”
Raducanu is the only top 20 player participating in the tie.
Great Britain Handed Tough Billie Jean King Cup Qualifiers Draw Against Czech Republic
Great Britain have a tough test in the Czech Republic in the BJK Cup qualifiers in April.
Great Britain will need to beat the Czech Republic away if they want to qualify for next year’s Billie Jean King Cup Finals after the draw was made today.
Anne Keothavong’s team beat Mexico earlier in the year to earn a place in the qualifiers next year.
However in today’s draw, Great Britain will need to overcome a huge test as they will go to the Czech Republic next April.
Czech Republic have won six of the last nine Billie Jean King Cups and boast the likes of Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Krejcikova, Marketa Vondrousova, Katarina Siniakova and Petra Kvitova.
Speaking after the draw Keothavong is looking forward to the test that awaits them in April, “The team are really looking forward to taking on Czech Republic in our 2022 qualifier and hopefully continuing our momentum in the Billie Jean King Cup next year,” she told skysports.com.
The Czechs are currently hosting this year’s finals and fell at the semi-final stage after losing a tight match to Switzerland.
Other key matches sees a repeat of this year’s group stage match between Belgium and Belarus while USA will host Elina Svitolina’s Ukraine team.
Here are the ties with the qualifiers taking place on the 15-16th of April next year with the finals happening next November:
Czech Republic v Great Britain
Australia v Slovakia
France v Italy
USA v Ukraine
Belarus v Belgium
Germany v Kazakhstan
Canada v Latvia
Spain v Netherlands
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