Great Britain missed their chance to qualify for the Fed Cup World Group for the first time since 1993 as they lost their Play-Off 3-2 to Japan.
It was 1-1 going into the second day, and the scores stayed level after Johanna Konta beat Naomi Osaka 6-3 6-3 and Kurumi Nara defeated Heather Watson 7-6(7) 6-4.
Konta and Watson then lost the deciding doubles 6-3 3-6 3-6 to Miyu Kato and Makoto Ninomiya to ensure their long wait to return to the elite 16 of the Fed Cup goes on.
“We are gutted about the result. One day our opportunity will come,” Great Britain captain Anne Keothavong told BBC Sport.
“If you keep knocking on the door, it will eventually open. It wasn’t to be this year but who is to say it won’t be next year?”
“We have to recognise the effort we have put in the last two years getting out of the zone,” Konta added. “People underestimate the task it is to get out of that Euro-Africa group.”
“Some of the best nations are in that group, when you look at the depth of the other zonal groups around the world. I’m very proud of the fact we keep putting ourselves in this position.”
Britain started the day in fine style as Konta produced a stunning display to beat Indian Wells champion Osaka in straight sets.
The 2017 Wimbledon semi-finalist struck the ball accurately and aggressively and remained rock-solid on her serve throughout as she won 74% of points on her first serve and 59% behind her second.
This ensured Konta only faced two break points in the match. It also enabled her to swing freely against Osaka’s serve, and in game seven she did exactly that.
After the Japanese double-faulted, the Briton crunched a forehand to draw an error. She then twice pinned Osaka behind the baseline with a series of very deep groundstrokes to earn break point and seal the break.
It was a crucial moment for Konta, and she rode a wave of momentum for the rest of the match. She broke the Japanese again in game nine to finish the first set, and maintained her intensity in the second set to take it 6-3.
Unfortunately for Britain, Watson was unable to capitalise on her teammate’s excellent win as she lost to Nara in disappointing fashion.
It was comfortably the lowest-quality match of the tie as neither player was able to exert any kind of control on their serve.
After Watson and Nara both broke twice in the opening seven games, the Briton earned a chance to serve for the set by getting a third break in game eight.
However, Watson has lost nine of her last 11 matches and her lack of confidence showed as she played the game very poorly to lose her serve to love.
The Briton’s failure to close out the set led to a tie-break, and she seemed determined to put her troubles behind as she hit a couple of excellent winners en route to a 6-3 lead.
But the good times did not last as Watson was unable to take any of her three set points and ultimately lost the tie-break 9-7.
She looked understandably dejected by that outcome and rapidly fell 3-0 behind in the second set. The Briton recovered well to level the score, but once again she failed to take advantage of the momentum.
Watson made a sloppy error and a double-fault to gift Nara two break points in game eight. She saved one with a big serve, but surrendered the second with a poor backhand that went wide.
Nara’s nerves defeated her and she handed the Briton a two break points and a lifeline in the match. Watson grabbed the second with a brilliant backhand into the corner.
But there was one last cruel twist left as Nara played good, aggressive tennis to break the British No.2 for the sixth time in the match and clinch a vital win for Japan.
That put all of the pressure on the final doubles rubber, and the greater doubles experience of Kato and Ninomiya made all the difference in the end as they fought back from a set down to win.
Konta and Watson produced some excellent tennis to come back from 0-2 and win the first set 6-3. The higher-ranked Briton served well and her partner looked sharp at the net.
However, Konta and Watson made a terrible start to the second set and slipped down 5-0. The British pair got one break back but the damage had been done and the confidence of the Japanese pair rose steadily as they took the second set 6-3.
The deciding set was close and went with serve for the first six games. However, Kato and Ninomiya nearly gained the advantage in game five when they earned four break points.
They did not manage to break through on that occasion, but Konta and Watson should have heeded the warning as they went on to lose their next two service games and, consequently, the match and the tie.
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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