Serena Williams Returns Under A Cloud Of Uncertainty
The eagerly awaited return of Serena Williams in the Fed Cup should have been one to celebrate. Instead the presence of the former world No.1 has created more questions than answers.
Williams hasn’t played a competitive match on the WTA Tour since winning her 23rd grand slam title at the Australian Open 13 months ago. Since then, she has given birth to her first child in September and married her partner, Alexis Ohanian. During her absence from the tour, Williams’ only taste of competition was an exhibition match against Jelena Ostapenko at the start of the year. Which she lost in three sets.
The scene was set for the 36-year-old to burst back on the scene this weekend when Team USA take on the Netherlands on home soil. However, as it currently stands, Williams will not feature in a singles match. Instead, she will concentrate on the doubles competition alongside Madison Keys.
“Why not Fed Cup? It’s a great opportunity to get, I mean, a new set of eyes on what I’ve been doing with Kathy,” she said about her comeback on Friday.
“Also just hitting with different people, just seeing different balls, seeing lots of different things. I think it actually is a really perfect opportunity to try to come back.”
Under competition rules, she could potentially play a singles match on Sunday if team captain Kathy Rinaldi chooses to. Despite having a triumphant 20-year career in the sport, this week is only Williams’ 10th participation in a Fed Cup tie and her first since 2015.
“There’s been a lot of ups and downs in the practice,” she explains.
“It also gives me another view, it’s almost relaxing for me as I have nothing to prove. Again, just fighting against all odds to be out there again, to be competing again.”
Where is she heading?
Now at the starting line of her comeback to the tour, few know which direction Williams is heading towards. Going into 2018, there was talk that she would begin her comeback at the Australian Open, but she was unable to fully prepare in time. The uncertainty continues with the American, who admits that she is unsure about which grand slam tournaments she will play this year.
“I don’t know. Right now I’m focused on this weekend and after that I’ll figure out what it might be.” She replied when asked about participating in this year’s French Open.
Williams is just two major titles away from becoming the most decorated singles champion – man or woman – in grand slam history.
The vague comments about her future plans comes as no surprise given what she has gone through. Shortly after welcoming the arrival of her first child via c-section, she became ill. Dealing with blood clots on her lungs as well as and her wound (from the surgery) opening back up. In total, she was bed bound for six weeks.
Should all go to plan, Williams will return to action on Sunday at the US Cellular Arena in Asheville. She has unfinished business to deal with, but remains a mystery as to how she is going to do it.
Australia Ousts Great Britain In Thriller To Reach BJK Cup Final
The host nation narrowly missed out on a place in the final but they have plenty of positives to motivate them for the future.
Australia has denied Great Britain an opportunity to play in their first team final since 1981 after prevailing 2-1 in an epic tussle at the Billie Jean King Cup in Glasgow.
The gripping tie was level at 1-1 after each team won one of the singles matches, paving the way for a winner-takes-all doubles encounter. The British team featured Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls who were both making their debut in the competition this week. Their opponents were former Grand Slam winner Sam Stosur and world No.10 doubles player Storm Sanders.
Despite the gap in experience between the two pairings, there was almost nothing to distinguish between the two throughout the majority of their encounter which lasted more than two hours. Nevertheless, the Australian duo held their nerve to seal a 7-6(1), 6-7(5), 10-6, victory to send them into the final.
“That was amazing. it could have gone either way and credit to the GB girls they played really well. They will be here again for sure.” Sanders said during her on-court interview.
It is only the second time in the past 30 years that Australia has progressed to the final after 2019. Before playing Great Britain, they also defeated Belgium and Slovakia in the group stages.
“A real credit to the four players out on court that was pretty inspirational, so I hope it inspires a lot more of you out there to play doubles. It was really such a high level you couldn’t pick it in the end.” Australian captain Alicia Molik commented on the doubles match.
Earlier in the day, Australia got off to the perfect start with Sanders edging her way past Heather Watson 6-4, 7-6(3). However, the host nation battled back with an impressive performance from Harriet Dart who defeated Ajla Tomljanović 7-6(3), 6-2. A player who has reached the quarter-finals at both Wimbledon and the US Open this year.
“The Billie Jean King Cup just brings the best out of me. I love playing in front of a home crowd, and I feel like I have really been feeding off my teammates and everyone here. It just makes me really want to do really well.” Said Dart.
The performances from the underdogs provide Britain with plenty of hope for the future. The nation lost in qualifying earlier this year but managed to enter the finals via wildcard due to the competition being held in their country.
“I’m just gutted for everyone right now but also I think we have to try and keep things in perspective,” British captain Keothavong told reporters.
“What a fantastic week it has been for the team. I don’t know how many people gave us much of a chance really to even come through the group stages.’
“It really is a fantastic achievement to reach the semifinals but we felt we could have gone further. That’s why it hurts so much.
“It’s going to hurt the players for a while but they’ll (the team) get over it. They can still hold their heads high because they have shown what they are capable of under a huge amount of pressure to deliver, and in the end, it came down to a few points.”
Australia will next play either Switzerland or the Czech Republic in the final. They are seeking to win the trophy for the first time since 1974.
Great Britain Looking To Overcome ‘Experienced’ Australia In Billie Jean King Cup Semis
Great Britain will play their first Billie Jean King Cup semi-final for 40 years when they play Australia on Saturday.
Great Britain plays their first Billie Jean King Cup semi-final for 40 years when they face Australia in the last four in Glasgow on Saturday.
It was a heroic effort from Great Britain on Thursday as they battled past Spain to reach the last four at the Billie Jean King Cup.
Having lost to Kazakhstan 2-1 in their opening match, they knew they had to beat Spain 3-0 to qualify for the semi-finals.
But step up Heather Watson, Harriet Dart and the doubles team of Olivia Nicholls and Alicia Barnett, as they pulled off a massive upset to seal a place in the semi-finals.
Speaking after the win against Spain, Great Britain’s captain Anne Keothavong praised the doubles pairing of Barnett and Nicholls, “It’s down to their doubles win on Tuesday night (in a 2-1 loss to Kazakhstan) that kept us in this competition,” Keothavong was quoted by tennis365 as saying.
“I think if you watch that match, it’s hard not to feel the joy and the camaraderie between the players. It really truly was infectious.
“I think also Liv and Liss bring something different to the team which we haven’t had before. It’s not just the fact that they specialise in doubles but they have had a life outside of tennis.”
Now Great Britain look to repeat the success of the 1981 side as they look to beat Australia and reach the final.
It will be no easy task though with an in-form Ajla Tomljanovic, Ellen Perez, Storm Sanders and Sam Stosur standing in their way.
Keothavong admitted it will be a tough match but also noted that momentum is on Great Britain’s side, “They are a tough team,” Britain’s captain admitted.
“They are a team with plenty of experience in this competition. But look, we have to believe, and we’re on a high at the moment.”
That semi-final is the first semi-final before reigning champions Switzerland face the Czech Republic at 16:00 GMT.
‘Sky’s The Limit’ – Great Britain Storm Into First Billie Jean King Cup Semis In Over 40 Years
The underdogs have exceeded expectations in front of their home fans in Glasgow.
British captain Anne Keothavong said it was ‘wonderful’ to watch her team pull off a sensational 3-0 win over Spain at the Billie Jean King Cup on Thursday.
After suffering a loss to Kazakhstan earlier in the week, team GB entered their latest tie knowing they have to win all three of their matches without dropping a set if they want to progress to the semi-final stages. Despite having the odds against them, they managed to surge to victory.
Heather Wason thrashed Nuria Perrizas 6-0, 6-2, who is ranked 50 places higher than her in the WTA standings. Then Harriet Dart stunned world No.13 Paula Badosa 6-3, 6-4, in just over 90 minutes. To put that victory into perspective, Dart has only beaten one top-10 player in her career, which was Daria Kasatkina at the US Open earlier this year.
“I’m just so proud to represent my country, to be able to also perform on home soil in front of a home crowd. Doesn’t get more special than that,” Hart told reporters afterwards.
“My goal was to make it as tough as possible out there for her, and I felt like I executed my game plan really well. I knew that all the pressure was on them because on paper she’s meant to beat me easily.”
On the verge of booking a place in the semi-finals, the tie came down to the doubles match. Alicia Barnett and Olivia Nicholls only found out they were playing in the competition for the first time in their careers last week. Despite their inexperience, the duo managed to pull off a shock 7-6(5), 6-2, win over Aliona Bolsova and Rebeka Masarova.
“The sky’s the limit after what we have shown so far,” said Nicholls. “We were definitely underdogs in this group. No doubt about it.
“Both the singles girls, Harriet and Heather, getting unbelievable wins. We have shown what we can do on the doubles court at well. I don’t see there are any players or teams here that we shouldn’t walk onto court thinking we can’t beat. We will just keep going.”
The triumph makes it the first time Britain has reached the semi-finals since 1981 when the event was called the Federation Cup. Britain, who are currently ranked 17th in the team standings, only managed to qualify for the finals due to being the host nation.
“It sure is (historic) – this is something really special,” said Keothavong.
“I’m just so proud of this team. Every single player on the team has done us proud, the team spirit has been high, and I just want to thank everyone who has come to support the British team here. It really makes the difference and we really appreciate the support.
“We want to put women’s sport and tennis on the map and the support you give us is helping us to create amazing memories.”
Britain will next take on Australia who coincidentally was the country they faced the last time they reached the semi-finals more than 40 years ago. Australia, which is headed by top-40 player Ajla Tomljanović, has topped their group following a 3-0 win over Belgium and a 2-1 win over Slovakia.
“We are not here to participate – we are here to try and win this event,” said team member Storm Saunders.
“Everyone on the team, it’s a priority for us to win. So, semi-finals is, yeah, a good step but we’re here for more.”
Britain is seeking to win the title for the first time in history and Australia is aiming to claim their first since 1974.
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